Man surrenders in connection with shooting that killed 4 people outside bar in Buffalo, NY

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Man surrenders in NY shooting deaths of 4 near bar

BUFFALO, N.Y. — A man has turned himself in to police in connection with the fatal shootings of four people outside a restaurant, a community activist says.

Community activist Darnell Jackson told The Associated Press on Wednesday that Riccardo McCray’s family and friends contacted him and asked him to intervene. Jackson said he persuaded McCray to turn himself in at the WIVB television studio rather than running from police.

Jackson, who doesn’t know McCray personally, said McCray told him he didn’t kill anyone.

“I explained to him that I didn’t think it was safe for him to be running in the street with the police looking for him,” Jackson said. “By him turning himself in, it will make the city safer and make his family look better.”

Jackson said he took McCray to the WIVB-Channel 4 studio rather than the police station “to make sure everyone could see that he’s in one piece and safe.”

The development came 11 days after the early morning shooting outside a downtown restaurant. The victims were leaving the City Grill at about 2:30 a.m. on Aug. 14 when a man opened fire and killed an Austin, Texas, man who was celebrating his first wedding anniversary in his hometown and three other people.

A police spokesman, the district attorney and McCray’s lawyer, Terrence McKelvey, did not immediately return phone messages seeking comment Wednesday. Calls to McCray’s home in Buffalo rang unanswered.

Jackson said McCray told him he didn’t know why the police were looking for him.

“He said he was innocent,” Jackson told The Buffalo News. “He wasn’t worried about anyone on the street doing anything to him because he didn’t do anything. He was worried about the cops doing something to him.”

In May 2009, McCray was arrested on charges of having a loaded rifle in his car. Officers alerted late at night to shots being fired at an intersection said they came upon McCray changing a flat tire, noticed several bullet holes in the rear and driver’s side of the vehicle and then spotted the rifle on the front seat.

McCray was charged with two counts of criminal possession of a weapon.

The restaurant’s managers, reacting to a dispute, had decided to close early and told patrons to leave. One witness said about 200 people crowded onto the sidewalk, some trying to quell a shoving match in the parking lot.

Some of the victims were part of a group that was attending a party at the restaurant before the Texas couple’s anniversary celebration. Killed were Danyell Mackin, 30; Tiffany Wilhite, 32; Shawntia McNeil, 27; and Willie McCaa, 26. Three survivors have been released from hospitals. Another remains in critical condition.

Mackin had returned to Buffalo with his wife from their home in Texas to celebrate their year-old marriage. His wife was not injured.

A parolee, Keith Johnson, a friend of one of the injured, was arrested within hours of the shootings and was charged with four counts of murder, but the charges were dismissed the next day.

While the victims were shot amid a crowd of people, police appeared to have trouble getting information. Police and city leaders said the killer appeared on surveillance tape, and they pleaded for witnesses to speak up.

After Johnson’s arrest, witnesses began calling to say police had the wrong man. But when investigators arrived to question the callers, “half of them disappeared,” police Commissioner Daniel Derenda said.

Johnson’s mother told The Buffalo News her son was at the restaurant at the invitation of a friend.

“My son could have been killed,” Jackie Green said. “He was ducking and dodging bullets like everybody else out there.”

Johnson was released on parole in July after serving two years for assault. He remained in jail Monday on an allegation of a parole violation for being at the bar, and investigators said he could be a witness in the case.

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