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Witness in Riverhead murder trial IDs alleged shooter

The murder prosecution of Shawn Lawrence, 42, of

The murder prosecution of Shawn Lawrence, 42, of North Amityville, is one of several complicated by the fallout from the shooting of cabdriver Thomas Moroughan. Photo Credit: Suffolk County Sheriff's Office

A North Amityville man testified Thursday that moments before a flurry of bullets left him injured, his best friend dead and a third man with brain damage, he was able to identify two of the shooters.

Ralph Council Jr., 49, now of Watertown, said one of the shooters was Allen McGhee, who pleaded guilty to manslaughter and is serving 12 years in prison. He said another was Shawn Lawrence, 42, now on trial before state Supreme Court Justice William Condon in Riverhead, charged with second-degree murder and two counts of attempted murder.

Council said it took him a few years after the Jan. 12, 2010, shooting at the Andpress Plaza apartment complex in North Amityville to name Lawrence, because he was afraid. But defense attorney Joseph Hanshe of Bayville suggested during cross-examination that Council merely told homicide detectives what they wanted to hear after he got arrested and was looking for leniency.

During questioning by Assistant District Attorney Glenn Kurtzrock, Council said the shooting happened after he and his friend, James Terry, 44, of North Amityville, came to the complex to pick up an acquaintance, David Hodges, after his sister kicked him out of her apartment there.

Hodges and McGhee had fought after McGhee, who is allergic to seafood, ate some shrimp off Hodges' plate.

Council said they returned two more times to the complex so Hodges could buy marijuana. After the second time, he said four men came to Terry's minivan, and McGhee told Terry to turn the engine off.

"I've got nothing to do with that," Terry told McGhee, according to Council. Then McGhee pointed a gun, and so did Lawrence, Council said. Terry grabbed McGhee's gun and a shot went off, he said.

There was quiet for a few seconds as he scrambled out of the minivan, he said.

"Then it went crazy," he said. "It was like Vietnam for five seconds."

When it was over, he was hiding in the woods, shot in the buttocks. Terry was dead, shot in the chest. And Hodges was shot in the head. His brain damage is so severe that he can only say "The man, the man," Kurtzrock said.

Council was arrested in December 2011 for violating his probation, and it was then that he told detectives what he knew.

"I wanted justice done," he said. "Jim was my friend. I wanted closure for him."

Council reviewed surveillance video of the attackers running to the minivan and away from it after the shooting. The video, played for the jury, shows four blurry figures, roughly the same height.

Hanshe has said the video exonerates his client, who is a foot taller than McGhee.

"Can you tell me which one is a foot taller than the others?" Hanshe asked, with the video on the screen. Council said one of the men was taller, and that was Lawrence.

Hanshe also asked why Council didn't say hello to Lawrence when he saw him in the parking lot before the shooting, seeing as they'd known each other for 30 years.

"There was a negative vibe," Council said. "He was doing negative things."


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