BUFFALO, N.Y. – Eight people leaving a party at a downtown Buffalo restaurant were shot early Saturday, four of them fatally, including a Texas man who had returned to his hometown to celebrate his first wedding anniversary, police said.
Managers had decided to close the City Grill in the city’s business district after an altercation inside. The victims were leaving at about 2:30 a.m. when a man who had been inside began shooting, police said.
“There were verbal things going on. Management apparently chose to close down and have everybody leave the restaurant,” Chief of Detectives Dennis Richards said. “People were leaving when this shooting happened.”
Keith Johnson, 25, of Buffalo, was charged Saturday afternoon with four counts of second-degree murder, but a prosecutor later told the Buffalo News that he intended to go to court today to seek dismissal of the charges.
Erie County District Attorney Frank A. Sedita III told the newspaper he was making the move after reviewing video and photos from the scene and interviewing additional witnesses, noting that the evidence showed “certain discrepancies of people and clothing.”
“We are having serious second thoughts,” Sedita told the newspaper. “I have serious reservations about whether we have the right guy here.”
The party took place in advance of a more formal anniversary celebration scheduled for later Saturday, authorities said. The couple, Danyell Mackin, 30, and his wife, Tanisha, married in Texas a year ago and had returned to celebrate with Buffalo-area friends and family, authorities said. Tanisha Mackin was not hurt.
“An occasion that should have been a joyous one, a happy one, turned tragic,” Mayor Byron Brown said Saturday near the restaurant, a popular stop for office workers during the week and people attending theater and sporting events at night.
The Mackins, known as “Dee” and “Tee,” have a 6-year-old son, Danyell Jr., and a 7-month-old daughter, Destinee, who was scheduled to be christened today. The family had moved from Buffalo to Austin, Texas, in 2006, and the Mackins worked for a local bank.
Police identified the other three victims as Willie McCaa III, 26; Shawnita McNeil, 27; and Tiffany Wilhite, 32.
“A senseless, random killing,” said Wilhite’s father, Raymond Wilhite, who returned to the restaurant a few hours after the shooting. “This kind of thing just has to stop.”
McNeil was Wilhite’s cousin.
“There’s no words to explain how I feel,” McNeil’s mother, Ruby Martin, said. “She got along with everybody. She knows a lot of people. She didn’t deserve to be killed. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t intended for her.”
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