There were too many shots and there was too much conflicting testimony for Judge Kenneth F. Case to accept that Christopher Perkins was acting in self-defense on the night he fatally shot two men on Buffalo’s East Side.
Perkins, now 24, was convicted Wednesday of two counts of second-degree murder and one count each of attempted murder and criminal possession of a weapon after a weeklong nonjury trial in Erie County Court.
Perkins, formerly of Euclid Avenue in Cheektowaga, admitted during his trial that he fired the bullets that killed Benjamin Gerald, 31, and Deverin White, 30, during a confrontation Aug. 23, 2014, at May and Doat streets.
Gerald and White were passengers in the back seat of a car driven by a woman who also testified in the case. Her then-boyfriend was in the front passenger seat and is the person Perkins was convicted of trying to kill.
Perkins testified that the car carrying the four people pulled up next to him when he was on the street and that White aimed a handgun at him and fired first. A gun was found with White’s body, and there were four shell casings from the weapon inside the car.
However, prosecutor Colleen Curtin Gable, head of the District Attorney’s Homicide Bureau, presented witnesses who said they saw Perkins walking toward the victims’ car and firing his weapon – not standing next to it and then running away.
The woman in the driver’s seat, who ducked when she heard gunshots, stepped on the gas, causing the car to ride up a utility pole guy-wire and flip onto its roof. She testified that she heard return gunfire from inside the car only after the car had flipped.
Her former boyfriend, who also survived the encounter and crash without serious injury, testified that he and Perkins had an ongoing “beef” dating back several months, when he punched Perkins in the face and broke his jaw. He said that on the night of the shooting, he and Gerald, who was his cousin, saw Perkins at a dice game and that Perkins, who goes by the nickname “Gotti,” had made threatening gestures.
Perkins denied that and said he left the dice game to avoid the man. He testified he was at May and Doat to complete a drug sale he had arranged earlier when the victims pulled up in their car.
But the witnesses in the victims’ car testified that a car carrying Perkins cut them off and that Perkins got out of it with his gun in his hand.
Crime scene experts testified that the arc of shell casings found in the street supported the actions of a person walking toward the victims’ car. Also, a resident who saw the shootings from up the street testified that she saw the gunman walking toward the car while he fired.
White, Gerald and Gerald’s cousin were able to get out of the flipped car through the shattered rear windshield. White collapsed in a nearby field, his gun nearby. Gerald’s cousin pulled him to the porch of a nearby house while they waited for help. Both victims were shot in the right side. There was no testimony presented to indicate that Gerald was carrying a weapon.
Perkins testified that he threw away his weapon a day after the shootings and that he fled to Oklahoma City four weeks later when he heard that friends of the intended victim were looking for him.
He was apprehended by the U.S. Marshal’s Violent Felony Task Force.
The two survivors at first refused to identify the shooter. The surviving passenger testified last week that he didn’t reveal Perkins’ name because “I was going to try to handle it myself.”
He said he finally came forward two weeks after the shootings at the urging of his cousin’s family. While in jail on an unrelated drug charge, he asked to talk with investigators about what he knew.
Perkins could face a maximum prison term of 75 years when he is sentenced April 27.