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In Koonce trial, three witnesses recount getaway

Three people said Friday that they were passengers in Norman Koonce's getaway car after the fatal shooting of a Lafayette High School freshman in June 2010.

During the ride, they talked about whether surveillance cameras caught the shooting.

And one witness recalled what Koonce said about the victim, 15-year-old Jawaan Daniels, who was waiting for a bus at Grant Street and West Delavan Avenue after being suspended from the high school a short time earlier.

"He said, 'I don't know if that little [expletive] thought I forgot about what he did to me,' " Leon McCrimager, 18, told jurors.

Prosecutors say Koonce shot Daniels in retaliation for the beating Koonce suffered outside Lafayette High School at the start of the school year in 2009.

In an opening statement earlier this week in Erie County Court, prosecutor James F. Bargnesi called the shooting a simple case of "street revenge."

"This defendant was pounded by some of the victim's friends" in September 2009, Bargnesi said.

Some of those same friends remembered Koonce as he rode his bicycle past them on June 11, 2010, Bargnesi said. They feared trouble as he rode by, but nothing happened.

But a short time later, Koonce came back, riding the same bike. This time, Bargnesi said, Koonce pulled out a gun "to settle that old score and exact his revenge."

"They started running, and this defendant started firing," Bargnesi said.

A bullet entered Jawaan's back and tore through his chest. He managed to run through the intersection before collapsing on West Delavan. He died at Erie County Medical Center soon after the shooting.

Koonce, who was 20 at the time of the shooting, is on trial for second-degree murder and criminal possession of a weapon before Erie County Judge Michael F. Pietruszka.

With police at the shooting scene, Koonce was picked up in the getaway car -- a green convertible -- at a shoe store a few blocks away, the witnesses said.

On Friday, the second day of witness testimony, McCrimager said they talked about the shooting as they drove away.

Kim Levergood, of West Valley, who owned the car, heard the others talk about how they had to get Koonce "out of the area."

Levergood said she was addicted to crack cocaine at the time and was with the men because she was getting drugs from them. McCrimager referred to Levergood as "a crackhead" who "let us use her car sometimes" for drugs.

Levergood said she heard Koonce say there weren't any cameras in the area, but others in the car disagreed.

Hakim Owens, who also testified he was in the car, said Koonce said he had dropped the bike off at a house before meeting the others at the shoe store.

None of the three witnessed the shooting, but went to the scene to meet up with Koonce.

McCrimager, who recently pleaded guilty to a robbery charge and has been in custody for seven months, said he testified in hopes of getting himself a lighter prison sentence.

Kevin W. Spitler, Koonce's lawyer, sought to portray McCrimager as someone who'd say anything to ease his own criminal troubles.

"You'd pretty much do anything to gain your freedom, wouldn't you," Spitler asked him.

"Yes," McCrimager replied.

"Lie for your freedom, right?" Spitler asked.

"No," McCrimager answered.

In his opening statement, Spitler reminded jurors about weaknesses in the prosecution's case: no DNA evidence, no surveillance video, no recovered murder weapon.

"This is not a simple case," Spitler said. "It's not an easy case. No murder ever is."

email: plakamp@buffnews.com