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Eyewitnesses to a massacre: Dramatic details emerge at City Grill murder trial

Somebody shot Shamar Davis in the back outside City Grill.

While getting him to trial was easier than another shooting victim brought to Erie County Court in handcuffs last week, getting Davis to talk Tuesday about what happened downtown at about 2:30 a.m. last Aug. 14 was tougher.

"Can you describe it?" prosecutor James F. Bargnesi asked about the shooting.

"No," Davis replied.

"Describe anything at all?" the prosecutor asked the 30-year-old car dealer.

"No."

"Do you want to be here?" the prosecutor asked later.

"No."

Davis could only describe the shooter as "a dark-skinned African-American, I guess," who was wearing purple.

"I have a job that I have to do. People are waiting on me," he said, explaining his rush to leave court.

Davis, who served eight months in jail for a felony weapon conviction in 2004, explained how he ran to his truck after getting shot. The bullet went in and out of his body. He said he drove to Erie County Medical Center and spent two or three days after the doctors "patched me up."

His entire testimony lasted 13 minutes.

Prosecutors didn't have a problem getting Devonia Cusack, 30, to talk.

She offered some of the most heart-rending testimony so far in Riccardo M. McCray's quadruple-murder trial -- and was more willing to identify the shooter than she was when interviewed by police in the days after the shooting.

Tuesday, Cusack described how she and her cousins, Tiffany Wilhite and Shawntia McNeil, walked out of the Main Street restaurant and bar together and found themselves in the middle of gunfire. The three ran back to the entrance but couldn't get through the doors, so they fell to the ground, she said.

"The bullets were flying so fast," Cusack said. "Tif, who's shooting?" Cusack said she asked her cousin. She got no reply.

That's when Cusack saw the shooter crossing the Metro Rail tracks and coming toward them waving "a big silver gun."

"He was coming toward us. I got up and ran past him to get to the patio," she testified.

Cusack said she saw the gunman in the purple shirt and beige shorts get close to her cousins, who remained behind.

Another witness, Annquienette Burkes, 35, described the gunman as a dark-complexioned African-American about 5-feet-7. Burkes said he ran up to a woman she later realized was Wilhite, a former childhood friend, and shot her once as she stood near the restaurant entrance.

After Wilhite "dropped" to the sidewalk, the gunman turned to another woman crouching in fear nearby and said, "I told you I was going to get you bitches." He ran back into the center of the street. Burkes said she did not see the gunman shoot the other woman.

Burkes, a network engineer in Memphis, Tenn., who was visiting her native Buffalo last August, testified that she only saw the gunman "from the side" and told police investigators an hour or so after the shooting that she could not be 100 percent sure of identifying him.

When the shooting stopped, McNeil, called "Tia" by family and friends, ran toward the City Grill's outdoor patio. Cusack said she reached out to McNeil to help pull her up. "I'm hit. He shot me," McNeil said, according to Cusack.

With the shooting over, Cusack went to check on Wilhite, who was on the ground near the entrance. Cusack said she saw a hole in her neck.

"I saw my cousin Tif lying in a puddle of blood," Cusack said, crying on the witness stand.

She tried cardiopulmonary resuscitation but said that it didn't work. Cusack urged her cousin to hold on, to keep fighting for her life for her family, but she drew her last breath.

Cusack went back to check on McNeil, who was still conscious but could no longer speak; she had been shot in the stomach. Cusack stayed with McNeil until emergency medical personnel arrived; McNeil died later in a hospital.

On the witness stand Tuesday, Cusack identified the shooter as "Murder Matt," McCray's street nickname. But Cusack was not as forthcoming with an identification when detectives interviewed her in the days following the shooting.

Joseph J. Terranova, McCray's lawyer, showed Cusack police paperwork she signed the day after the shooting indicating she recognized McCray only as someone quarreling inside City Grill.

Terranova then asked Cusack if she also told detectives three days after the shooting that she could not identify the shooter "because his face was a blur."

"Correct," Cusack replied.

And when Cusack appeared in front of the grand jury, she did not identify McCray as the shooter. "That was not a question asked," she said. Cusack said that it was only after she saw McCray in a courthouse hallway during his arraignment that she was "100 percent sure" he was the man she saw with the gun outside City Grill.

Under questioning from prosecutor Mary Beth DePasquale, Cusack said she didn't identify him to police earlier because, "I was scared and I was nervous and I was in shock. My cousins had been murdered."

McCray is charged with fatally shooting Danyell Mackin, 30; Willie McCaa, 26; Wilhite, 32; and McNeil, 27; and wounding James Robb, 27; DeMario Vass, 30; Davis, 30; and Tillman Ward, 27.

If convicted, McCray could face life in prison without a chance of parole. He also is charged with one count of second-degree murder, attempted murder and weapons offenses.

Mykale King, who was at City Grill when the shooting occurred, testified she saw McCray with a gun. He was crossing the Metro Rail tracks coming "straight toward the bar with a gun in his hand," she said.

King said she did not see him shoot the gun. King testified that she earlier saw McCray and one of his friends pour champagne on each other inside the restaurant.

"I seen Murder Matt and Red pouring Moet [champagne] on each other," King said.

King is facing a felony charge of conspiracy to distribute cocaine on a December 2009 arrest. She has pleaded not guilty to the charge, which is not related to the City Grill shooting.

Terranova asked King whether her City Grill testimony would help her get beneficial treatment from those prosecuting her drug charge. She said that it wouldn't. The defense lawyer said King did not talk with police at the scene after the shooting but first talked with detectives and federal agents six days after the shooting at the U.S. Attorney's Office, which is prosecuting her on the conspiracy charge. "I went where I was told to come," she told Terranova.

King also was charged with possession of stolen property last November in Cheektowaga and pleaded guilty earlier this month to a reduced charge of disorderly conduct.

Bargnesi objected to Terranova's implication that King's testimony benefited her in her other cases. Bargnesi asked King whether she got any assistance from the District Attorney's Office on the Cheektowaga charge.

"None," she replied.

Did it have any impact on what you saw at City Grill? Bargnesi asked.

"None. Nothing. Not at all," she replied.

The trial will resume Thursday.

News Staff Reporter Matt Gryta contributed to this report.

e-mail: plakamp@buffnews.com

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