Jurors in the trial of a Glen Head mechanic charged with killing a co-worker listened Monday to a 911 call authorities said the defendant placed after the deadly shooting.
"I just killed a guy," defendant Lawrence Grammer, now 74, declared on the August 2018 recording after asking for police to come to his location.
The Glen Cove man then told a seemingly surprised 911 operator that he had used a .45-caliber weapon on the deceased that day after they "got in a fight yesterday," and that the victim was bleeding from his head.
The 911 call followed what Nassau prosecutor Tracy Keeton said was Grammer’s "execution-style" slaying of Bashir Ward, 35, on Aug. 4, 2018, after the confrontation a day earlier.
Ward, a mechanic who lived in Valley Stream and had worked at the shop for about nine months, was married and had a daughter who was then 5.
Testimony in the murder trial before acting State Supreme Court Justice Howard Sturim began as in-person staffing in New York courts returned to pre-pandemic levels for the first time. The Mineola proceeding is only the second murder trial to involve a jury in Nassau County in more than a year after the state court system used a mostly virtual model of operations for months to combat the spread of COVID-19.
Grammer’s attorney, Joseph Lo Piccolo, reminded jurors Monday that Grammer had the presumption of innocence as they decided if any crimes were committed that day at D & R Automotive — located at a Citgo gas station on Glen Head Road.
The Garden City defense lawyer said that while Grammer, who had worked at the business for 15 years, admitted to police he shot Ward, Grammer also had said: "I planned to scare him."
Lo Piccolo also said video would show Ward chose to get "in the face" of Grammer after Grammer had a disagreement with a gas pump operator the day before the shooting about money being docked from Grammer’s paycheck because of a gas purchase by one of Grammer’s children.
Lo Piccolo said that dispute was not the first time Ward and Grammer "had words" and Ward, a younger and bigger man, previously had threatened Grammer with a sledgehammer.
But Keeton told jurors Grammer, who also served as a tow-truck driver, planned to kill Ward after their dispute on Aug. 3, 2018, when she said the two men got into a scuffle following Ward's intervention in an argument between Grammer and another employee. She said Ward used a racial slur before pushing Grammer to the ground, sparking a shoving match their boss then broke up.
After that, Grammer put a .45-caliber pistol and a loaded magazine in a vehicle parked near the business, before carrying the weapon to work on Aug. 4 and shooting Ward as he worked on a Jeep Wrangler, according to the prosecutor.
Grammer blocked in the Wrangler with another vehicle and about 10 minutes later shot Ward once in the back of his head after calling out his name and not getting a response, Keeton said.
"The defendant admitted committing this brutal murder," the prosecutor added, while also describing what she called a "video confession" Grammer later gave to police.
Members of Ward’s family were in court Monday, but his wife and sister declined to comment.
The trial, which is being livestreamed for public access during the pandemic, is scheduled to continue Tuesday.