Prosecutors have lined up more than four dozen witnesses to make their case against Diamond Lewis, 20, accused of shooting eight people.
“This defendant is a shooter... Sometimes he hits his targets, sometimes he hits 13-year-old girls walking down the street with their grandmother,” Assistant District Attorney Eugene Partridge said. “When this defendant sees someone he doesn’t like: POW. Over a 15-month period this defendant shot eight people.”
Lewis' trial before Erie County Judge Kenneth F. Case began Monday.
He is charged with murdering two people and wounding half a dozen others over the course of 15 months, until his arrest in January.
An 18-year-old woman was driving her 15-year-old brother home from a store near Kent and Playter streets – they hadn’t walked out of safety concerns — when she was caught in the middle of a drive-by shooting. The bullet is still lodged near her spine.
Five people were shot in a drive-by while they were outside at a gathering on Warren Street. Alonzo Scott was killed. Anthony Douglas, 25, was left paralyzed. A woman survived five bullets in the chest. One of the other two men hit by the gunfire has known Lewis since childhood, Partridge said.
“They used to have sleepovers together,” he added.
The most blatant crime, however, was the first with which Lewis is charged, the October 2014 murder of David Skipper, who was 22.
“He was hit by seven rounds at close range,” Partridge said. “This defendant shot an unarmed man in the back seven times when he was kneeling or bending over.”
Partridge said there is a witness to the shooting and that Lewis boasted about it on social media.
“He wanted people to know who shot him,” the prosecutor said.
Lewis chose to have his case heard only by a judge, without a jury. In their opening statement, his attorneys said that publicity about the arrest led to Lewis’s decision to forgo a jury.
In laying out the case against Lewis, the prosecution said a shooting on Jan. 25 eventually led to Lewis’s arrest.
A seventh grader and her grandmother were walking to the store.
“They had no idea there were guys from Box Street (a gang) at the store or that Lewis was hanging around with a loaded gun,” Partridge said.
Lewis and another man were driving around looking for people from the gang to shoot, Partridge said. But it was the 13-year-old who was hit. The bullet shattered her shin, and the assailants drove away.
Later that night, someone caught up with Lewis and his friend, who by then were in separate cars. Shots were fired, Lewis was hit and he drove himself to the hospital, police said. The friend pursued the shooter, but wound up crashing his vehicle.
Police later found the weapon used to shoot the 13-year-old in that vehicle.
Partridge said police found weapons used in some of the shootings, and that the guns had Lewis’s DNA on them.
In a brief opening statement, defense attorney John Gilmour told the court that it would not be DNA or physical evidence that decides his client’s fate. He asked the judge instead to consider the credibility of the witnesses who were scheduled to testify against Lewis.
“These witnesses took the opportunity to dump crimes that they committed on Mr. Lewis,” Gilmour said. “They are trying to save themselves from long prison sentences.”
The prosecution moved to refute that assertion with its first witnesses Monday.
Buffalo Police Officer Andrew Shea testified that he and his partner was just a couple blocks away on Aug. 13, 2015 when they heard the sound of gunfire, which was coming from the intersection of Playter and Kent streets. As they called in the shots and headed to the scene, they saw a black pickup running a stop sign at the end of Playter and head through the traffic circle down Memorial Drive. They went after the truck, and when a report came moments later that the shooting involved a black pickup, they turned on their lights and pulled it over.
Diamond Lewis was in the passenger seat, Shea testified.
Shea said the officers’ view of the truck was obscured for only a matter of seconds as it passed a “bumpout” in a yard.
The weapon later identified as being the one from the shooting was found in that yard, which was on the passenger side of the truck. DNA consistent with Lewis’s was found on the weapon, a forensic biologist testified.
The young woman hit by the crossfire stepped on the gas and drove away from the shots. She survived.
Her brother, now 16, had already gotten out of the car when the pickup pulled up past the driver’s side of their car. He testified Monday about what he saw: A group of boys he knew who had run in front of their car when it stopped at the intersection. The black pickup came up, and then he saw muzzle flashes from the passenger side of the pickup. As he ran away, he said, he heard more shots, possible coming from the other direction.
Asked what happened next, he said, “I hid. And then I went home,” he said.
It was only then that learned his sister had been shot.
Story topics: Erie County Court