NEW ORLEANS - A year ago this month, the brother of a key witness who testified against Telly Hankton was gunned down on Claiborne Avenue.
On Friday, the man accused of the murder will appear before a judge during an arraignment on federal charges.
The sprawling federal indictment is empowering those who knew the victim to speak out.
"To this day I still have dreams about it," said Derrick Wheeler. "I still think about Curtis to this day."
October 15, 2011 is a night Wheeler will never forget. His mentor Curtis Matthews, 61, died in his arms. He was gunned down in front of Jazz Daiquiris on Claiborne Avenue, a business Matthews co-owned with his brother.
"Just a horrific scene," said Wheeler. "Not only was he family, but he was a loved one, a friend, someone I could count on."
A year later, the man charged with killing Matthews has been named in a sweeping federal indictment. Investigators believe Walter Porter was the hit man for a multi-million dollar drug ring headed by kingpin Telly Hankton.
Matthews' brother was a key witness in a murder trial that sent Hankton to prison for life just days earlier. Officials believe Porter also tried to kill Matthews' brother, shooting him 17 times before he took the stand.
"You know, it was unforgettable. Unforgettable. A year later it's still fresh in my mind," said Calvin Pepp, another longtime friends of the Matthews brothers.
Pepp was celebrating his birthday at Jazz Daiquiris the night Matthews was killed. He said 40 to 50 people were inside at the time.
"Curtis shook my hand and went outside, and that's the last time I saw him alive," said Matthews.
A culture of retaliation killings, ordered from jail, has instilled fear in the community over the years. But now that federal officials have named 13 members of the Hankton crew in a federal indictment, Matthews' friends say the jury is still out on whether that culture will change.
"Changes for the better. It's about time. [The feds] should have come in 10 years ago," said Pepp.
"It's not going to bring back Curtis, it's not going to bring back John. I would do anything in my life to see them two right now," said Wheeler.
But for now, all Wheeler can do is remember his friend and pray for justice.
"If I can say anything to him, I would say, 'I love you Curtis,'" said Wheeler.
Porter is expected to plead not guilty Friday afternoon at his arraignment in federal magistrate court.
Wheeler's real name isn't used in this story at his request.