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Getaway rider recalls seeing McCray shoot

The most damning testimony to date in the City Grill murder trial occurred Thursday, when a 20-year-old high school dropout took the witness stand in Erie County Court.

Gerry Davis testified that he watched Riccardo M. McCray -- whom he knew then only by his street name, "Murder" -- shoot a man in the back of the head.

"Any question 'Murder' did it?" prosecutor James F. Bargnesi asked.

"No, sir," Davis replied.

Davis then recounted how his troubles deepened at about 2:30 a.m. last Aug. 14 outside the downtown restaurant. He found himself in the getaway car with McCray, who's now standing trial on charges of fatally shooting four people and wounding four others in one of the most violent crimes in Buffalo's history.

After the first shots, Davis said, he ran to his friend's red 2008 Pontiac sports sedan in a parking lot across the Metro Rail tracks from City Grill. There, he met his friend -- who had driven Davis to City Grill earlier that night in the car -- expecting that the two of them would drive away.

But instead of getting in the car, his friend "ran back to the commotion" at City Grill -- and came back followed by McCray.

"C'mon, Murder! C'mon Murder," the friend shouted, urging McCray to the car, according to Davis.

>Hiding in Riverside

The friend got into the driver's seat, Davis sat in the front passenger seat, and McCray sat in a back seat, behind the driver, Davis testified.

"What'd I do? What'd I do?" McCray asked repeatedly, as they sped away, Davis said.

"Nothing, Murder. Nothing," the friend replied, according to Davis.

Davis said he saw a drunken McCray close his eyes and vomit in the back seat.

Then, while en route to a Riverside house, the driver handed Davis the "silver and gray" handgun that Davis said he had seen McCray fire.

"When I get to this bridge, throw it over the side," his friend said, according to Davis.

"I'm not touching that," Davis said.

"Just throw it. Just throw it," the friend instructed, according to Davis.

Reluctantly, Davis said, he undid his own shirt and used it to grab the murder weapon so he would not leave any fingerprints on it. Then he got out of the parked car and tossed it over a bridge.

Davis later told police he did not know the location of the bridge, with which he was unfamiliar, nor could he describe it.

After tossing the gun, the three made their way to the Riverside home of the mother of McCray's son, Davis said.

Davis said his friend carried McCray into the house, and moments later came back out with McCray's blood- and vomit-soaked shirt.

The friend threw the shirt into a blue garbage bin in front of the house.

Davis said he knows his friend by his first name only, David. Taking the witness stand later Thursday, Buffalo police Detective Gary E. Teague identified the driver as David Lawson, the first cousin of his oldest son. Teague described Lawson as a man in his 30s, known to Teague since birth.

Teague testified that he tried to persuade Lawson to talk with police, but failed. Lawson denied any role, Teague said.

>'Nervous and afraid'

Lawson remains uncooperative and is not expected to testify.

However, Lawson accompanied Teague to the Police Department's Seneca Street garage nine days after the shootings and voluntarily drove his sport sedan there to be examined for evidence.

The car was swabbed for DNA evidence and appeared relatively clean and free of debris in photos shown to the jury. Buffalo police Detective James B. Maroney described the car as "not filthy, but not pristine, either."

Joseph J. Terranova, McCray's defense lawyer, questioned whether the car could have been cleaned to remove any traces of evidence.

Maroney said that it was possible, since the car was examined more than a week after the shooting, but that there was no noticeable odor of cleanser when police examined it.

Davis told the 12-member jury that he didn't want to be involved in the getaway.

"I didn't want to be in the car," he said. " 'Just get me home!' " he said he told Lawson.

Three days later, Davis flagged down Police Officer Jennifer D. Whitaker, who was on patrol on East Ferry Street, and told her he had information about the shooting.

"He seemed very nervous and afraid," Whitaker said in court earlier this week.

He said he was lying down on the back seat so nobody could see him in the police car.

Under questioning from Terranova, Davis acknowledged that he he did not tell police everything he knew during his first interviews with detectives, nor during his grand jury testimony.

Davis identified McCray to police and signed a police document indicating that he had "seen him shooting."

Davis, however, said he did not reveal his ride in the getaway car or tossing the gun from the bridge "to keep myself out of trouble."

>Witness is in handcuffs

Davis, however, has opened up more to police since his arrest on second-degree robbery charges in October, which has kept him locked up in jail for the last five months. If convicted of that felony, Davis could face a 15-year prison sentence.

Terranova asked Davis whether he was now providing more details to help himself with prosecutors of his robbery case.

"I brought it up to get the complete story out," Davis replied.

Davis was brought before the jury in handcuffs Thursday. He said in court that he did not want to testify but had not been promised any deals in his own case by the prosecutors. Before the City Grill shooting, Davis said, he had known McCray only by his street name of "Murder" and saw him "once in a while" in the neighborhood.
As for what punishment he gets, if convicted of the robbery charge, "I get what I get for being in that position," he said.

McCray is charged with fatally shooting Danyell Mackin, 30; Willie McCaa, 26; Tifanny Wilhite, 32; and Shawntia McNeil, 27; and wounding James Robb, 27; DeMario Vass, 30; Shamar Davis, 30; and Tillman Ward, 27. If convicted, he could face life in prison without a chance of parole.

In addition to three first-degree murder charges, McCray also is charged with one count of second-degree murder, four counts of attempted murder and weapons offenses.

>Fleeing car was halted

Jurors on Thursday also heard from a state trooper who pulled over a car Aug. 23 on Interstate 190, apparently unaware that McCray was a back-seat passenger when Buffalo police were in the midst of an intense manhunt for him.

State Trooper Randall A. Shenefiel, assigned to the Cheektowaga barracks, said he pulled over a red Acura on the northbound Niagara Thruway near the Peace Bridge at 3:03 a.m., when he noticed that the car changed lanes and almost sideswiped his car.

The car with North Carolina license plates had three occupants, the trooper said.

When Shenefiel ran the license number through a computer, an alert indicated that the owner of the vehicle was a missing or wanted person. Shenefiel said he asked everyone in the car for identification. The back-seat passenger said he didn't have any ID on him, the trooper said.

>Troopers let the trio go

The trooper focused his attention on the driver and separated him from the two passengers. While he spoke with the driver away from the car, he said, his partner spoke with the passengers.

That trooper did not testify Thursday.

Shenefiel said he couldn't see the face of the back-seat passenger because he was blinded by his partner's flashlight shining into the vehicle. Troopers eventually released the car and the passengers.

The next day, the Acura was brought to the Seneca Street garage for evidence collection.

Maroney, the police detective, said that the car was swabbed for DNA and that clothing, cigarette butts and other items were collected as evidence.

e-mail: plakamp@buffnews.com

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