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8 shot, 4 killed at Buffalo restaurant

Victim had hoped to celebrate his 1st anniversary

By Carolyn Thompson
Associated Press / August 15, 2010

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BUFFALO — Eight people leaving a party at a downtown Buffalo restaurant were shot early yesterday, 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,’’ Chief of Detectives Dennis Richards said. “Management apparently chose to close down and have everybody leave the restaurant. People were leaving when this shooting happened.’’

Keith Johnson, 25, of Buffalo was charged yesterday with four counts of second-degree murder and could face more charges. Johnson was in custody yesterday and unavailable for comment. Police did not know whether Johnson was involved in the earlier altercation and asked witnesses to speak up.

“We need people to come forward,’’ said Police Commissioner Daniel Derenda, who estimated there were 100 people at the scene when police arrived.

The group was attending a party in advance of a more formal anniversary celebration scheduled for later yesterday, 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 near the restaurant, a popular stop for office workers during the week and people attending theater and sporting events at night.

The Mackins, who grew up in the same neighborhood, had been friends since they were 13 and started dating in 2001, according to a website created to commemorate their marriage and provide details about the celebration. Known as Dee and Tee, they have a 6-year-old son, Danyell Jr., and a 7-month-old daughter, Destinee, who was scheduled to be christened today, the website said. The family had moved from Buffalo to Austin, Texas, in 2006, and the Mackins worked for a local bank.

The reception was to be held at a community center in Buffalo, and the couple said online that it was “dedicated to the people who meant so much to us and that we lost.’’

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.

Demario Vass, 30, remained in critical condition last night, according to a police spokesman. Two men, James Robb Jr., 27, and Shamar Davis, 30, were in stable condition. Tillman Ward, 27, who was shot in the elbow, was in good condition.

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