By Paul Gackle

Tears poured out of the eyes of Charlette Wallace as she hugged her sister, Carol, in celebration on the front steps of the Alameda County Superior Court in Oakland Thursday. A 12-man jury had just sentenced Willie “W.L” Thompson, 34, and LaVar “Mooney” Coleman, 27, to life in prison for the shooting death of her nephew, Dante Wallace.

“If you pray hard enough, things will come true,” she told her family. “Oh, thank you Jesus!”
The verdict put an end to the emotional four-week trial before Superior Court Judge Leo Dorado that determined accountability in a four-man shootout between childhood friends.

In the early hours of April 25, 2004, Thompson and Coleman killed longtime friends, Wallace and Ronnell Hodge, in a shootout on 65th Avenue in an East Oakland neighborhood known as, “the Village.” The four men, along with the only eyewitness, Matthew Cobbs, had been close friends growing up, playing football and baseball in the village streets as kids, and later, drinking and partying as adults.

Wallace said things went sour between the four men when her nephew and Hodge moved out of the village to create a safer environment for their families.

“Jealousy comes when you make it out of the ghetto and others can’t,” she said. “Jealousy comes from trying to get an education and trying to better yourself.”

Wallace acknowledged that the verdict wouldn’t bring back her nephew, but she said the sentence guaranteed others would be safe from future altercations with the convicted men.

“Closure is that we can be at peace and not have to worry about no menaces to society and our family,” she said