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Crime scene video shown in Falls attempted murder trial

LOCKPORT – Surveillance videotapes shown to a Niagara County Court jury Tuesday depicted what the prosecutor says was an attempt to kill a man in Niagara Falls.

Joachim S. Sylvester, 38, of Ontario Avenue in the Falls, is on trial on charges of trying to kill Larry Miller of the Falls by firing two shots at him in front of the Highland Deli, 2712 Highland Ave., at about 2:25 p.m. April 17.

“This man drove up in front of the Highland Deli and opened fire,” Hoffmann said in Tuesday’s opening statement, walking across the courtroom and pointing at Sylvester, who is charged with attempted second-degree murder and second-degree criminal possession of a weapon.

The prosecutor promised the jury of eight women and four men, “This is not a case where you have to guess what happened. I’m going to show you it.”

Defense attorney Angelo Musitano told the jury in his opening statement, “The issue for you is really simple. The question: is it enough? … Is Ms. Hoffmann going to give you enough evidence to prove every element of these two accusations?”

Musitano predicted that Hoffmann wouldn’t be able to do it.

The silent videos, shot from two angles by cameras mounted in front of the deli, showed a man in a red T-shirt and a white baseball cap, whom Hoffmann said was Miller, standing near the back of a black vehicle parked at the curb.

A silver sport utility vehicle comes down the street from the right, and the man in red starts running to the right even before the SUV has stopped. That was allegedly in reaction to the first gunshot.

A man, allegedly Sylvester, is seen jumping out of the SUV and chasing the man in red, who enters a silver SUV parked at the curb on the opposite side of the street from the deli.

The gunman jumps onto the sidewalk and allegedly fires again as the vehicle with the man in red speeds past from right to left. The fleeing SUV careens across the street and plows into the black vehicle, driving it back several feet before getting away. The gunman then re-enters his vehicle and drives off in the same direction as the target’s SUV.

Miller’s mother, Grace Codner, who was brought to court after being arrested on a material witness warrant Tuesday morning, identified her son on the video. She also testified that she owned the Chevrolet TrailBlazer that her son allegedly crashed before getting away. She identified photos of the vehicle.

Niagara Falls Police Officer Andrew D. Pappas said he found the TrailBlazer, with its smashed front end, parked at the Monteagle Ridge Apartments on Hyde Park Boulevard that afternoon. He said there were what appeared to be two bullet holes in the passenger-side door, which would have been the side facing the gunman, according to the video.

Officer Marsha E. Gee testified that she found a spent shell casing near where the black vehicle had been parked.

The trial continues today before County Judge Matthew J. Murphy III, who dismissed a felony marijuana charge against Sylvester less than a month before the shooting, on grounds that the officer who stopped the Hummer in which Sylvester was riding was guilty of racial profiling and had no probable cause.