Cousin of Victim Testifies at McCray Trial

March 23, 2011 Updated Mar 23, 2011 at 1:46 PM EDT

By John Borsa

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March 23, 2011 Updated Mar 23, 2011 at 1:46 PM EDT

BUFFALO, NY (WKBW) - It was supposed to be a celebration in honor of her cousin's first wedding anniversary.

Annquienette Burkes, 35, of Memphis, Tennessee, a Queen City native, returned to Buffalo last August to join her first cousin Danyell Mackin for a party to mark the occasion.

But the weekend ended in tragedy when Burkes witnessed one of the worst murder scenes in Buffalo history and watched as her cousin died in her arms.

Moments earlier, she saw a childhood friend get shot in the face and drop to the ground dead.

Burkes' emotional testimony Tuesday morning was stopped by the judge for ten minutes because she was so overcome with tears, she could barely speak.

Under questioning by lead prosecutor James Bargnesi, Burkes said she ran down Main Street towards Seneca Street when gunfire erupted at the corner of Main St. and Swan St. outside City Grill Restaurant on August 14.

She glanced back to look at the shooter.

"He turned to the right and started shooting, then turned to the left and shot a couple more times," Burkes testified.

Burkes said she watched as the shooter crossed Main Street towards the entrance of City Grill and shot a woman at point blank range.

Burkes testified that the woman was Tiffany Wilhite, who was pronounced dead at the scene. Burkes said the two were childhood friends.

"She dropped to the ground," Burkes said on the witness stand. "He pointed at another girl who crouched down and screamed."

"The shooter said, 'I told you I was going to get you bitches,'" said Burkes.

Burkes said as the shooter fled the scene she walked back towards the restaurant and realized Mackin had been shot.

"He said he couldn't feel his legs and couldn't breathe," she told jurors.

Burkes tried to give Mackin CPR. He died in her arms.

She could not identify the shooter.

Riccardo McCray, 23, is on trial for the mass shooting and facing life in prison without the possibility of parole if convicted. He is facing three counts of first-degree murder, one count of second-degree murder and four counts of first-degree attempted murder.

Joseph Terranova, McCray's defense attorney, questioned Burkes about a suspect identification she made for homicide detectives a few hours after the shooting.

Burkes said she pointed out Keith Johnson in a photo lineup. Johnson was later arrested and subsequently released after police officials said Johnson was not the shooter.

"Annquienette Burkes made a mistake," Terranova told the jury during his opening statements on Friday. "Somebody was arrested because of a mistake."

"Isn't that what this case is all about? Do they have the right guy?" Terranova said on Friday.

When Terranova questioned another witness Tuesday afternoon, the jury heard Devonia Cuseck, 30, of Buffalo, tell the jury that she could not see the gunman on the night of the shooting.

"His face was a blur," Cuseck said, reading from a statement she made to Buffalo Police detectives just days after the shootings.

When Cuseck, a cousin of City Grill murder victim Shawntia McNeil, was questioned by the prosecution a few minutes earlier, she pointed to McCray in court and identified him as the shooter.

The trial is taking Wednesday off. Testimony will continue on Thursday at 10 a.m.