The complex case against Diamond Lewis was rolled out in bits and pieces last week in Erie County Court, where a judge heard evidence in four shootings that left two young men dead and injured six other people, most of whom did not know the man accused of shooting them.
Five of the people allegedly shot by Lewis have taken the witness stand; two identified him as the gunman who fired into a family cookout on Warren Street in June 2015, wounding four people and killing Alonzo Scott, 18.
Others described how they were shot by an unknown -- and in some cases unseen -- gunman when they were in the wrong place when shooting broke out.
Investigators have testified they believe all of the shootings were gang-related, possibly in retaliation for other shootings and homicides, with almost all the victims innocent bystanders.
In one shooting at Playter and Kent streets in August, the 18-year-old female victim was caught between the attacker and the young men believed to be his target. She had been giving her young brother a ride to avoid boys they heard were shooting paintballs at people in the neighborhood, when she stopped at the intersection to let him out.
Her 16-year-old brother testified that he saw some guys run across the street in front of his sister’s car, then he heard shots. He couldn’t see who was shooting, but saw muzzle flashes from the passenger side window of a black pickup.
His sister, who had been shot, stepped on the gas to get away; he ran in another direction and the pickup took off.
Minutes later, police recovered a weapon a few streets away, not far from where they pulled over a black pickup that looked a lot like the one described at the shooting scene.
Diamond Lewis was in the passenger seat and a ballistics expert testified that the gun that had been thrown nearby matched the bullet that hit the young woman in the car. To complete the circle, a forensic biologist testified that, with an exponentially high degree of probability, Lewis’ DNA was among the samples found on the gun.
A gun also was recovered and matched to the bullet that went through the leg of a 13-year-old girl on Jan. 25 when she was walking to a store with her grandmother. Forensics also made a DNA match between that gun and Lewis.
The girl, now 14, didn’t see who shot her. She testified that she never even saw anyone with a gun. She and her grandmother were almost to the store when they noticed a group of boys hanging around outside. Then she heard the pop of gunshots. Security video shows her rushing into the store, where she collapses in pain as her grandmother holds her.
A friend of Lewis’, whose nickname is "Chops," testified that he was with Lewis that day, riding around, and that when they saw members of the Box Street gang at the store, he said, he dropped Lewis off about a block away. A short time later, he heard gunshots, and picked Lewis up. He also testified that, after the shooting, Lewis had him hide his gun and the magazine in the door panels of his truck.
The move backfired, according to prosecutors.
Shot, nabbed, panicked
Later that night, the two men were driving in separate vehicles when someone in another vehicle shot at Lewis, hitting him in the ribs. Chops tried to stop the shooter’s vehicle by crashing into it with the truck, he said. That left his pickup damaged. While Lewis drove himself to the hospital in the other car, Chops had trouble getting the truck started and then "about 40 police cars came out of nowhere."
Police impounded the vehicle, detectives testified.
They also arrested Lewis on an outstanding warrant for a weapons conviction after he was treated at the hospital.
That’s when a panicked Lewis began making a flurry of telephone calls from jail to his family and girlfriend. His desperation comes through in a stream of anger, urgency and profanity.
Recordings of some of those phone calls provided some of the most telling moments of the trial.
"It’s over. It’s over, you hear?" Lewis is heard hollering at his girlfriend in one call.
After frantically telling people on the calls that he could be dying because of his gunshot, he gets down to business.
"I ain’t playing. I ain’t playing," he says over and over. He tells his mother and his girlfriend both that they need to reach Chops and get his "mac and cheese" — his Mac 11 gun — out of the truck. A second weapons charge would mean serious jail time if he was linked to the gun.
Lewis tries to convince the others and himself that it isn’t too late, but it already was.
Victim IDs Lewis
Defense attorneys Brian Parker and John Gilmour could do little to refute the evidence linking Lewis to the guns. But in those shootings, no one saw the weapons in Lewis’ hands when they were being fired.
In contrast, Anthony Douglas said he did see the gun and the gunman who shot him at the Warren Street cookout. The bullet that went in his back left him paralyzed and in constant pain. The pain is so bad a he couldn’t testify after arriving at the courthouse Tuesday, but he returned two days later to describe what happened.
The incident was brief and horrible.
Douglas, now 25, said he was coming out of his uncle’s house, getting ready to leave to pick up his son, when he saw a gray car pull up in front, near where some people from the party were playing dice.
"Somebody was hanging out the window," Douglas said, and then he saw the gun.
"As soon as I turned (to run), I got hit," he said. "I fell and I couldn’t get back up."
Douglas doesn’t know Diamond Lewis, but he was able to pick him out of a photo lineup and he cried as he pointed him out in court.
On cross-examination, Parker asked Douglas several different ways if perhaps others from the party — including two other men who were shot and who testified earlier — had contacted him about the shooting before the trial.
No, Douglas said.
In a voice that could barely be heard, he said, "Nobody contacts me, period, except my father and my mom."
And then, in his wheelchair, he left the stand.
Fatal street shooting
There was no cookout or family gathering when David Skipper was shot two years ago. He was just walking down Erb Street one afternoon.
But Assistant District Attorney John Feroleto brought into evidence Facebook postings made on Lewis’ page that brag about the killing.
"Chops" said Lewis also told him about it, even though he didn’t ask.
"He said he shot him and then he walked up and shot him again," he testified. "I think he was lying down on the ground."
The assistant medical examiner who performed the autopsy on Skipper testified that the fatal shot, which hit Skipper in the back, was fired when Skipper was bending over or kneeling.
When questioned about whether he asked Lewis for more information about the shootings he bragged about, Chops said no.
"I don’t ask. I try not to," he said.
Lewis was indicted on 19 felony charges altogether, including two counts of murder for the deaths of Scott and Skipper, attempted murder and assault for the other shootings and several weapons charges.
Because it is a non jury trial before Judge Kenneth F. Case, both sides agreed Friday afternoon to forgo testimony from doctors about the extent of the injuries of the surviving victims, noting that five sustained non-life threatening injuries and that Douglas was paralyzed.
Testimony is expected to conclude Tuesday.