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Courtroom full as Amherst Southpoint shooting suspects arraigned

  • Soknang Chham during his arraignment in Eastern Hampshire District Court in Belchertown, Friday, Dec. 16, 2016, facing one count of murder and one count of armed assault with intent to murder in connection with the Oct. 15 shooting death of Jose M. Rodriguez, 31, at the Southpoint Apartments in Amherst. GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Soknang Chham during his arraignment in Eastern Hampshire District Court in Belchertown, Friday, Dec. 16, 2016, facing one count of murder and one count of armed assault with intent to murder in connection with the Oct. 15 shooting death of Jose M. Rodriguez, 31, at the Southpoint Apartments in Amherst. GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

  • A attendee gets escorted out of the court room after leading a chant of “Southside, we outside,” during the arraignment of Soknang Chham and Soksot Chham in connection with the Oct. 15, 2016, shooting death of Jose M. Rodriguez, 31, at the Southpoint Apartments in Amherst. GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Soknang Chham during his arraignment in Eastern Hampshire District Court in Belchertown, Friday, Dec. 16, 2016, facing one count of murder and one count of armed assault with intent to murder in connection with the Oct. 15 shooting death of Jose M. Rodriguez, 31, at the Southpoint Apartments in Amherst. lGAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Soknang Chham

  • Soknang Chham during his arraignment in Eastern Hampshire District Court in Belchertown, Friday, Dec. 16, 2016, facing one count of murder and one count of armed assault with intent to murder in connection with the Oct. 15 shooting death of Jose M. Rodriguez, 31, at the Southpoint Apartments in Amherst. GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Soknang Chham during his arraignment in Eastern Hampshire District Court in Belchertown, Friday, Dec. 16, 2016, facing one count of murder and one count of armed assault with intent to murder in connection with the Oct. 15 shooting death of Jose M. Rodriguez, 31, at the Southpoint Apartments in Amherst. GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Soknang Chham during his arraignment in Eastern Hampshire District Court in Belchertown, Friday, Dec. 16, 2016, facing one count of murder and one count of armed assault with intent to murder in connection with the Oct. 15 shooting death of Jose M. Rodriguez, 31, at the Southpoint Apartments in Amherst. GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS



@mjmajchrowicz
Friday, December 23, 2016

BELCHERTOWN — The courtroom Dec. 16 was the site of outbursts and outrage as the two brothers police say are responsible for the shooting death of a South Amherst man answered to the charges against them.

The court was brimming with supporters of the accused and the deceased as well as numerous police officers.

Authorities believe Soknang Chham, 33, killed Jose "Joselito" Rodriguez when he allegedly shot the 31-year-old on Oct. 15 at Southpoint Apartments in Amherst and injured another. He's charged with murder as well as armed assault with intent to murder. Meanwhile, Soksot Chham, 35, was charged with accessory to murder after the fact.

Both men, from New Salem, pleaded not guilty in Eastern Hampshire District Court on all charges.

The man who was injured in the incident, who is 28, was shot multiple times but survived after undergoing surgery at UMass Medical Center in Worcester, police said.

Judge David Ross ordered Soknang held without bail at the Hampshire County Jail and House of Correction, while he set a $250,000 cash bail for Soksot, who will be held at Franklin County Jail and House of Correction.

Roughly four dozen friends and family of Rodriguez took up an entire side of the courtroom. Many wept and murmured under their breaths as Soknang Chham was brought into a holding area. About a dozen law enforcement personnel from Belchertown and Amherst and state police stood at various posts around the room.

Just after Soknang’s plea was entered, a man rose from his seat in the gallery and shouted across the room to the accused shooter.

“South Side!”

“We outside!” those around him said in tandem.

Rodriguez was known to use that phrase.

Judge Ross briefly left his bench while officers swiftly removed the yelling man, and at least one other, from the courtroom. Those on the opposite side of the aisle, who were friends and family of the defendants, remained mostly quiet throughout the episode. Even before court was in session, officers were forced to separate two men as they exchanged heated remarks in the lobby.

Friday’s arraignment had been about four weeks in the making. More than a week after Rodriguez was killed, the brothers were taken into custody by the United States Marshals Service on Oct. 25, near Flagstaff. They had boarded a Phoenix-bound bus, according to the Northwestern district attorney’s office. The brothers arrived back in Massachusetts this week.

Both men are expected to return to court Jan. 25.

Michael Majchrowicz can be reached at mmajchrowicz@gazettenet.com.