Another witness has come forward and says he's willing to testify that Valentino Dixon did not gun down Torriano Jackson at Bailey and East Delavan avenues in August 1991.
Anthony Watkins, now 31, said this week that he was in the crowd at that corner when Jackson, 17, was mowed down by machine gun fire outside Louie's Texas Red Hots. Dixon was arrested hours later and is now serving 39 years to life for the killing.
Watkins told The Buffalo News that he knew Dixon from high school and that he is certain Dixon was not the shooter.
"When the shooting started, everybody was running," Watkins said. "And (Dixon) was ducking. That's all I saw him doing. So it was impossible for him to duck and shoot at the same time. He was hiding. You could hear a lot of gunshots. At first I thought he was shot."
Watkins said he and many others in the crowd were asked for their names and addresses by police at the scene. But he said nobody contacted him later to tell what he saw, and as a teenager, he didn't feel that anyone would listen to him if he came forward.
He also said he couldn't identify who the shooter was.
But Watkins decided to come forward after reading articles in The News on July 4 and 5 about Dixon's bid for a new trial, based on witnesses who were never called. Dixon maintains his innocence, while another man, Lamarr Scott -- currently imprisoned on an unrelated charge -- insists that he, not Dixon, did the shooting.
"Reading about it brings back memories," said Watkins, a Marine Corps veteran who is a certified social worker counseling youths through the Community Action Organization and is working on a doctorate degree. . Watkins was interviewed near a football field behind the Buffalo Academy for the Visual and Performing Arts on South Division Street, where he coaches Little League baseball.
"You want to put a nightmare behind you," Watkins said, recalling the shooting at 1:30 a.m. Aug. 10, 1991, outside Louie's Texas Red Hots.
Watkins is the second witness in the past three weeks to tell The News that Dixon was not the shooter.
The other witness is a woman who was sitting in a red Tracker eating a hot dog when the shooting broke out. She said she knew both Dixon and Scott and will testify that Scott killed Jackson.
She said she didn't come forward during Dixon's trial because she feared retaliation if she got involved. The woman, still fearful, has asked The News to withhold her name.
Dixon's lawyers believe both new witnesses will be helpful in their quest for a new trial.
Erie County Judge Michael L. D'Amico is expected to rule soon on the hearing request, based on their claim of newly discovered evidence.
Watkins said he had sneaked out of his home on Moselle Street while his parents were asleep and joined other youths at Bailey and Delavan on Aug. 10, 1991.
"I was getting a hot dog in Louie's," he recalled. "Everybody wanted to hang on Bailey, and Louie's had a big parking lot. Police never bothered us."
He heard two pistol shots.
"It wasn't a .22," said the 13-year Marine Corps veteran, who served in Operation Desert Storm and in Somalia. "It had a little bit of weight to it."
Then the automatic fire began from a Tech-9.
Witnesses all agree that Jackson was downed by the machine gun fire and that the shooter then stood over him and emptied the Tech-9. In all, 27 rounds were fired.
When the violence ended, Jackson was dead, and three others, including his brother, Aaron Jackson, were injured.
Police later found a .32 caliber hand gun, with one spent shell in the chamber, in Louie's parking lot. Scott and other witnesses claim that Torriano Jackson fired one or two shots before the machine gun fire erupted. Police never determined who fired the handgun.
Three witnesses, including Aaron Jackson, identified Dixon as Torriano Jackson's killer. Two days after the shooting, Scott confessed, and other witnesses backed him up in statements to police. But by then police had picked up Dixon, who was out on bail awaiting sentencing for two incidents in which he and another drug dealer had exchanged shots. Neither hit his mark.
Police discounted Scott's confession, saying he was trying to protect his friend Dixon, who was facing a stiffer sentence than the younger Scott would get. But Scott later recanted when threatened with perjury. Recently he told The News that he really was the killer.
The two others who initially told police that Scott was the shooter were convicted of perjury.
Without Scott and those two witnesses, Dixon's original lawyer said, he was left with no one to call to the stand on Dixon's behalf.
Dixon's new attorneys say they now have more than half a dozen witnesses who claim Dixon wasn't the shooter.
Watkins said he was familiar with both Dixon and Jackson.
Torriano Jackson was feared on the streets because he had a gun, Watkins said. Scott was a small fish, he said, while Dixon was a known drug dealer whom police were eager to put away.
"They were out to get him," Watkins said. "I think they knew it (was an injustice). They didn't care."
Police and prosecutors deny this.