When Diamond Lewis, convicted of killing two people and shooting six more, appeared in court Thursday morning, Erie County Judge Kenneth F. Case told the 19-year-old that his crimes were “senseless acts of cowardice” and then proceeded to make sure each of the victims received their measure of justice.
“I’m going to impose a sentence today that you deserve and that the community deserves to see imposed,” Case said.
The judge ticked off the carnage Lewis caused over 15 months in his East Side neighborhood:
“You killed two people, you paralyzed a young father, you shot a young woman five times, you shot another young woman who was dropping her brother off at a store,” Case said.
He pointed out that one of the women planned to be a dancer, a dream denied because of the bullet she still has in her back. The judge mentioned the other victims – two other men shot at a family cookout, and a 13-year-old who was walking to the store with her grandmother.
Then Case told Lewis how many years he would serve for what he did to each victim:
Twenty-five years to life for the murder of David Skipper Jr., 22, in October 2014.
After that, another 25 years to life for the murder of Alonzo Scott, 18, in a drive-by shooting on Warren Avenue in June 2015.
Also from the June shooting:
Twenty years for firing the shot that paralyzed Anthony Douglas, 25.
Fifteen years for the attempted murder of Raequan Reed, hit by one bullet.
Seventeen years for the attempted murder of Dominique Toney, who survived five gunshots to the chest.
And 15 years for the attempted murder of Leroy Favors, struck by one bullet.
The judge added another seven years for the shot that struck Chaniah Trueheart, then 18, in August 2015 when her car wound up between Lewis’s gun and his intended target, Keyshawn Brazier, at the intersection of Playter and Kent.
And seven more years for shooting 13-year-old Lavonna Gaines on Jan. 26 when she was walking to a store.
Judge Case ordered those sentences to be served consecutively, which means, should a parole board ever determine that Lewis was eligible for release on one of the 25-to-life sentences, he then would begin serving the next, and so on.
“If my math is correct, that’s 131 years,” Case said. “It should be clear that, in my opinion, you should never be released from prison.”
Case also sentenced Lewis to terms of between 12 and 15 years on nine other convictions for weapons possession and assault in connection with the above incidents, and ordered those sentences to run concurrent with the longer terms.
Families of murder victims Alonzo Scott Jr. and David Skipper Jr. said they found solace in Case’s mammoth sentence when they spoke outside the courtroom.
“I’m not a gambler but today I am going to play the numbers 131,” said Alma Sweat, Scott’s grandmother.
In a statement to the court before the sentencing, Sweat pointed out that her grandson had lived in Buffalo less than two months and did not know Lewis “whatsoever.” He wasn’t even at the Warren Avenue party that Lewis was shooting up, but was hit when he inadvertently rode into the attack on his bicycle.
Scott had moved here from South Carolina to be closer to relatives he first got to know in 2011, Sweat said. That was when he came to Buffalo for the funeral of his father, Alonzo Scott Sr., who also was murdered.
“I don’t want to carry any hatred, but I am torn inside,” Sweat told the judge. “I don’t know what to ask you to solve this pain that I hold.”
David Skipper’s mother Leatha Spikes told the judge that, when Lewis targeted her unarmed son and gunned him down on the street, “He took a father, a son and a brother, and now he’s gone. Sometimes I feel like I feel that bullet.”
“It’s wrong. Nobody should have to feel that pain, to lose a loved one this way,” she said.
When asked before sentencing if he had anything to saw on his own behalf, Lewis replied, “No, your honor.”
Acting District Attorney Michael J. Flaherty Jr., who was in court for the sentencing, said afterward, “I was surprised that, when given the opportunity to apologize or express remorse, the defendant chose not to. It’s really hard to understand, after hearing those two women speak.”
Prosecutors believe the bloody shooting spree started in response to the deaths of two Lewis’s friends who were gunned down in 2013. All were said to be members of the Keystone gang.
Police called Lewis’s vengeful assault on his East Side neighborhood a “reign of terror,” with none of the victims responsible for the other deaths and with most not even his intended targets.
It appears Lewis shot Skipper because he wanted to punish Skipper’s brothers. Scott wasn’t even with the people Lewis was shooting at. Trueheart had just stopped at an intersection when Lewis’s target ran by. Gaines was accompanying her grandmother to the store, not realizing a gunman was preparing to ambush some alleged gang members who were standing outside the business.
Testimony at Lewis’s trial indicated that, after Lewis missed those gang members, they retaliated that night and shot Lewis while he was driving with his girlfriend.
The gunshot wound sent Lewis to the hospital, and it was there that he was finally arrested. By then, investigators say, he had made so many enemies that he had been robbed, beaten, stabbed and shot three times – once reportedly by an angry girlfriend. He has been in jail ever since, and investigators and prosecutors speculated the arrest probably saved Lewis’s life, along with the lives of those who may have become his victims in the future.
Assistant District Attorneys John Patrick Feroleto, Eugene T. Partridge III and Meghan E. Leydecker prosecuted the case. The investigation was led by BPD Detectives Scott Malec, Mark White and Christopher Sterlace.
After court Thursday, Leatha Spikes said she found closure in the judge’s sentence but was still trying to come to terms with the senseless way her son died.
“My son’s life is over because (Lewis) had something to prove to his ‘friends,’” Spikes said. “He’s a serial killer. That’s how I see it.”
Alma Sweat, wearing a shirt decorated with images of her grandson and of his father, said she also was relieved.
“Today is justice and I am well pleased – to know that he’ll never be able to kill anybody else in my family or anybody else’s family,” she said. “Maybe I’ll get a good night’s sleep tonight.”
News staff reporter Lou Michel contributed to this report.