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Target of drive-by shooting says he doesn’t know who assailants were

LOCKPORT – The man who was the target of a drive-by shooting in Niagara Falls last year testified Tuesday that he doesn’t know who fired at him, and he said he had no beef with the man who is on trial in the case.

The testimony came in the trial of Donald Rodgers Jr., 22, of Cudaback Avenue, who is charged with attempted first-degree assault and second-degree criminal possession of a weapon as an accomplice to Lester M. Streeter, 20, who pleaded guilty to being the shooter.

Streeter, who was sentenced Feb. 5 to five years in prison, said when he pleaded guilty that Rodgers was the driver of the vehicle. Streeter, a passenger, fired at a man on Niagara Street in the Falls on the night of June 17. The Niagara County Court jury has been told Streeter was the shooter but not that he pleaded guilty and implicated Rodgers. Streeter is not expected to testify in the trial.

The apparent target of the gunfire, Theodore “Pootie” Presley III, 19, of Rochester, testified Tuesday that he was staying at his cousin’s apartment on Niagara Street that night, and heard her talking to a man on the phone. Presley said the man apparently asked to come over and Presley told his cousin to say no.

Assistant District Attorney Claudette S. Caldwell told the jury in her opening statement Tuesday that she believed the evidence would show that Rodgers was the man on the phone and that Presley argued with him. But Presley said he never actually spoke to the man. However, he also said, “I taunted the person,” and warned him that if he came over to the house, “There would be a problem.”

He said that shortly after the phone call, he walked outside the house at 1622 Niagara and heard a man’s voice. Presley said, “I hear something like, ‘Pootie, come here,’ and I heard flash, boom. … I saw the flash and I turned around and ran the opposite way.”

Presley, who avoided making eye contact with Caldwell or the jury, said he saw a stopped truck in front of the neighboring house, but didn’t recognize the voice or anyone inside the vehicle.

He seemed more comfortable when being questioned by Rodgers’ attorney, Assistant Public Defender Michele G. Bergevin, looking directly at her during cross-examination. Bergevin asked, “Did you ever have any problem with Donald Rodgers?”

Presley quickly answered “No,” but when Bergevin asked the same question about Streeter, Presley hesitated before saying “No.” Following up, Caldwell got Presley to admit he had an altercation with Streeter at a party “days, weeks” before.

Caldwell told the jury the gunshot struck the window of a neighboring home, but crime scene investigator Jason G. Sykes said the hole was only in the outer pane, not the inner pane, of a double-pane window. Sykes admitted that normally a bullet would go through glass. No gun, bullet or shell casing ever was found at the scene. Sykes collected some pieces of metal from the windowsill, but they weren’t identified as bullet fragments.

Rodgers rejected a plea offer last week that would have brought him a combined five-year sentence for this case and for two attacks Rodgers committed on another Falls man in 2013. He has pleaded guilty to those but has not yet been sentenced.