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McCRAY IS FOUND GUILTY OF CITY GRILL MURDERS; 3 first-degree counts are in verdict as jury deliberates for 7 hours

An Erie County Court jury found Riccardo M. McCray guilty of three counts of first-degree murder Thursday night in the fatal shooting of four partygoers last Aug. 14 outside City Grill on Main Street downtown.

Because McCray was first found guilty of the first-degree murder counts, the jury did not consider one count of second-degree murder.

"Simply a legal technicality," said chief prosecutor James F. Bargnesi.

Jurors also found McCray, 24, guilty of two counts of first-degree attempted murder and one count of criminal possession of a weapon.

The jury cleared him of one attempted-murder charge, the one filed in the shooting of Shamar Davis, who proved to be a difficult witness on the stand for prosecutors.

"Obviously, we're very gratified by the jury's verdict," said Erie County District Attorney Frank A. Sedita III.

"He's a murderer," Sedita said of McCray. "That's what he is. He shoots people. He killed a lot of people."

Now he'll spend the rest of his life in prison, Sedita said.

McCray was charged with fatally shooting Willie McCaa, 26; Tiffany Wilhite, 32; Danyell Mackin, 30; and Shawntia McNeil, 27. He was also charged with wounding DeMario Vass, 30; James Robbs Jr., 28; and Davis, 30.

Charges against McCray included three counts of first-degree murder, one count of second-degree murder, three counts of first-degree attempted murder and one count of possession of a weapon in the massacre, which occurred at about 2:30 a.m.

The way the indictment was structured, "if they found him guilty of those first-degree counts, they would not consider the second-degree count," Bargnesi said.

Bargnesi credited courageous witnesses, who "said what they saw and talked about who they knew and pointed to this defendant. That was putting us on the right path."

He also called the video surveillance tape crucial.

"It allowed us to stand there and demonstrate with authority that what those witnesses were saying was true and was accurate," Bargnesi said. "It was very powerful, not only in the courtroom but in first days of the investigation."

Prosecutor Mary Beth DePasquale said the ability to show that only one gun was involved also proved helpful in convicting McCray.

"I think it was enormous," DePasquale said of the ballistics reports confirming one 9 mm semiautomatic handgun was used in the shooting.

"The fact [is], we have a video that showed the defendant pausing for a millisecond over Mr. Mackin as he's facedown on street trying to shield himself, and they can actually see him firing a bullet to his back. The bullet matches the bullets from the street and the bodies of the other victims."

The jury deliberated for roughly seven hours, reaching its verdict at about 10 p.m.

Before the verdict was announced, Judge Sheila A. DiTullio asked for calm in the courtroom. "I realize this has been an emotional and stressful case for many of you," she said.

Prosecutors called 49 witnesses over seven days before the jury went into deliberations before 3 p.m. Thursday.

During Thursday's summations, jurors heard sharp differences of opinion about the witnesses: They were either courageous for coming forward or finaglers looking for plea deals.

Bargnesi stressed to jurors that only one gun was used.

"The ballistics testing tells us the same man who shot once is the same man who shot all," Bargnesi said. "All seven bullets were fired by the same gun."

Also, Bargnesi said that Mackin was targeted. "This defendant wanted him dead for whatever reason," he said. "It's clear from the fact that Danyell Mackin was the only person who was shot more than once."

During his closing argument, Bargnesi replayed the surveillance video that showed the alleged gunman walking toward a wounded Mackin.

Bargnesi described the horrific scene as the video played:

"Danyell Mackin, defenseless and helpless," Bargnesi said, as friends and family in the courtroom yelled out as they watched the footage showing Mackin get shot. "Down on his stomach, sees someone approaching and gets back down for cover. [He] tries to cover himself up when there's nothing else he can do."

The footage shows Mackin, after he's shot a second time, get up and stagger along Main Street.

"Stumbles down Main Street," Bargnesi said, as the video plays for the jury. "And we watch the horror as he dies in front of our eyes. Down he goes, in the arms of his cousin, never to get up again."

Bargnesi played to the emotions and horror connected with the massacre, but he also cited the witnesses who have come forward. "We have not one, not two, not three, but five identification witnesses that sat in that chair and pointed at this defendant and said, 'That is him,' " Bargnesi said.

Bargnesi called witnesses Robbs, Mykale King, Devonia Cusack, Rickita Latham and Gerry Davis courageous for coming forward.

"For people like James, Devonia, Mykale, Gerry and Rickita, it's the hardest thing in the world to sit up there in a murder trial and point someone out, especially when they know him and he knows them," Bargnesi said.

"But James and Devonia and Mykale and Gerry and Rickita pointed him out because it was the truth," he said. "And we know that because they all saw it from slightly different angles and slightly different times, but they all explained the different parts of the chaotic 17 seconds in essentially the same way."

And surveillance video, evidence collection, DNA testing and ballistics reports confirmed their stories, he said.

"We know it was this defendant because the truth fits together from all different angles," Bargnesi said.

Joseph J. Terranova, defense lawyer for McCray, suggested that jurors view them differently, and he challenged their credibility.

Several of them came forward weeks and even months after the massacre only to help themselves out of their own problems with the law, looking for reduced charges or softer sentences, Terranova said.

"This case is one finagler after another," Terranova said. "These people are trying to gain some benefit for themselves.

Terranova added, "You can't trust much, or most, of the eyewitness testimony."

Robbs, who was shot in the groin but survived, had to be brought to court in shackles to ensure his testimony, Terranova said.

Terranova reminded jurors that when Robbs arrived at Erie County Medical Center for treatment, he said he didn't know who shot him.

The defense lawyer also brought up Robbs' 2001 conviction for shooting an innocent bystander, a woman, in the ankle when he shot at another man but missed.

"You cannot trust James Robbs," Terranova said. "You cannot trust what he says. He's brought here in shackles. He doesn't even want to testify. He lies to the police not once, but twice."

e-mail: plakamp@buffnews.com

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