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Pathologist testifies two were shot at close range

Two of the fatally wounded City Grill victims were shot at close range, with the shooter just 2 and 4 feet away, a pathologist testified Friday in Erie County Court.

Danyell Mackin, 30, died of two gunshot wounds. He was shot in his left buttock and in the right upper back, said Dr. James J. Woytash, who conducted a postmortem at Erie County Medical Center.

Tiffany Wilhite, 32, was shot in the right side of her neck. Her carotid artery and jugular vein were injured in a way that would cause someone to "bleed very dramatically," Woytash said.

Friday was the fifth day of trial for the accused shooter, Riccardo M. McCray, who is charged with fatally shooting Mackin; Wilhite; Willie McCaa, 26; and Shawntia McNeil, 27; and wounding James Robbs Jr., 27; DeMario Vass, 30; Shamar Davis, 30; and Tillman Ward, 27.

The day lacked the gripping eyewitness testimony that pushed emotions in the first days of the trial, but photos from the postmortems and the medical details on how exactly the two died cast a somber mood in the courtroom.

Charges against McCray include three counts of first-degree murder, one count of second-degree murder, four counts of first-degree attempted murder and possession of a weapon.

Woytash, chief of service in ECMC's pathology department, worked as Erie County's chief medical examiner when he examined the bodies last August.

During questioning from prosecutor Mary Beth DePasquale, Woytash testified that stippling marks on Wilhite's face and a powder residue on Mackin's yellow shirt showed the gun was fired from not more than 2 to 4 feet away.

In Mackin's case, the powder is presumably gunpowder, but Woytash told defense lawyer Joseph J. Terranova that he did not test the powder.

Woytash said he could not determine which bullet first struck Mackin, or whether he was standing or on the ground when he was shot.

Could he have been shot while lying face down, DePasquale asked.

"Could be," Woytash replied.

One bullet tore through Mackin's back and exited out of his right chest, Woytash said. The other bullet entered his left buttock, Woytash said.

The bullet that struck Wilhite entered the right side of her neck and exited underneath her left arm pit, he said.

As with Mackin, Woytash could not say what position Wilhite was in when she was shot. He could not determine if she was kneeling, standing or lying down.

Toxicology tests revealed the presence of marijuana in both Mackin's and Wilhite's systems. Mackin had a blood-alcohol level of 0.13 percent, beyond the legal limit to drive, while Wilhite's blood-alcohol level was .07 percent, just under the legal limit.

Robbs, one of the four wounded in the Aug. 14 shootings outside the Main Street restaurant, was shot in the groin, fracturing his pelvis, said Dr. Valerie L. Burkhard, a physician who tended to him at ECMC.

Burkhard said she removed the bullet, and turned it over to police. Robbs, who was placed in custody because he was reluctant to testify, was brought in shackles from the Erie County Holding Center to be questioned in court last week.

Earlier Friday, Rich Newberg, senior correspondent at WIVB-TV, described McCray's surrender at Channel 4's studios on Elmwood Avenue 11 days after the shooting.

Newberg had been in telephone contact with community activist Darnell Jackson about the possibility of McCray coming to the station to surrender. At the time, police were conducting an intensive search for McCray.

Newberg said he told Jackson that McCray would find "a safe environment" at the station.

When McCray first arrived, accompanied by Jackson, Newberg met him outside and escorted him into the building into a conference room, with the cameras rolling. Newberg asked McCray questions and Jackson called McCray's lawyer.

Station managers had called the police as soon as McCray arrived, something Newberg said they did without his knowledge. Newberg asked McCray questions, with cameras recording the questions and answers. Jurors watched the roughly half-hour tape on Friday.

Jackson cautioned McCray against "talking too much," but Newberg told McCray, "This is your opportunity to speak your mind."

Responding to Newberg, McCray denied being the shooter. "If I knew what caused the shootings, I'd tell you," McCray said.

McCray's defense lawyer questioned whether Newberg was taking advantage of McCray.

"You thought that'd make a pretty good story, correct?" Terranova asked.

"Yes," Newberg said.

"Don't you think you took advantage of Mr. McCray?" Terranova asked.

"No, I don't think we took advantage of Mr. McCray," Newberg replied. "I was acting in my role as a reporter, asking questions."

"Your concern wasn't for Mr. McCray's safety, was it?," Terranova asked.

"Yes, it was," the newsman answered.

Newberg said his duty was to provide a safe environment for McCray to surrender to authorities while finding out all he could about the City Grill shootings.

"I had a duty to ask if he was the shooter," Newberg said.

Newberg said he gave McCray a chance "to express himself. I made no judgment about his guilt or innocence," he said.

e-mail: plakamp@buffnews.com

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