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Judge is told how McCray became No. 1 suspect in City Grill massacre

Less than a day after last August's City Grill massacre, Riccardo M. McCray was identified as a prime suspect, Erie County Judge Sheila A. DiTullio learned Wednesday.

However, only one of three men who identified a police photo of McCray said he saw him shoot the gun during the mass shooting Aug. 14. A woman who also picked his police photo said she saw him pull out the gun but did not see him fire it, authorities said in court.

DiTullio, who is scheduled to preside at the March 14 start of jury selection in the case, reserved decision on the admissibility of the four photo identifications of McCray.

At one of the final pretrial hearings in the case, homicide detectives said, the four witnesses viewing photos had connected McCray to the shooting, all within six days of the massacre -- on Aug. 15, 17 and 20.

McCray, 23, a former Buffalo street gang member, has been jailed since he surrendered to authorities at the Elmwood Avenue headquarters of WIVB-TV on Aug. 25.

If convicted, he could face life imprisonment without parole in the fatal shooting of Danyell Mackin, 30; Willie McCaa, 26; Tiffany Wilhite, 32; and Shawntia McNeil, 27; and the wounding of James Robb, 27; DeMario Vass, 30; Shamar Davis, 30; and Tillman Ward, 27.

During Wednesday's court hearing, Joseph J. Terranova, McCray's latest court-assigned lawyer, and prosecutors James F. Bargnesi and Mary Beth DePasquale spoke of three other witnesses who made physical identifications of McCray, but not through photos.

Terranova suggested that the four may have either traded information or looked at photos before they were exposed to the photo arrays.

Homicide Detective Noreen E. Walsh said the woman who identified McCray from photos Aug. 20 in the U.S. Attorney's Office was on federal probation in an unrelated criminal case. The woman said she saw McCray "pull out a gun" outside the bar, according to Walsh.

One of the male witnesses, the judge learned, said he saw McCray fighting in the City Grill before all patrons were ordered to leave at about 2:30 a.m. Aug. 14. Another saw McCray fighting outside the bar, with the other witness seeing him firing the weapon.

The judge did not say when she would rule on the admissibility of the identifications from the photo array. She scheduled a Feb. 17 session on last-minute pretrial motions in the case.

e-mail: mgryta@buffnews.com

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