Schenectady County

Prosecutor says killing linked to drug trade

When Omari Lee killed Xavier McDaniel a year ago, he was delivering street justice through the barre

When Omari Lee killed Xavier McDaniel a year ago, he was delivering street justice through the barrel of a gun, the prosecutor in Lee’s murder trial in Schenectady County Court said in his opening statement Wednesday afternoon.

Chief Assistant Schenectady County District Attorney Philip Mueller said Lee was telling McDaniel and others who tried to interfere with his crack-cocaine business, “You mess with me and you will get hurt.”

Lee, 27, faces one count of first-degree murder, accused of intentionally killing McDaniel at 1:30 p.m. on April 3, 2007, while he sat in his car outside Jerry Burrell Park in the Hamilton Hill section of Schenectady. Lee also faces 13 additional charges in the trial, which is expected to last three to four weeks. Testimony is to continue today.

If convicted of the murder charge, Lee faces a sentence of 20 to 25 years to life in prison, or life in prison without parole.

Defense attorney Mark Sacco said the prosecution’s evidence is based on testimony from witnesses who have repeatedly perjured themselves, struck deals to avoid lengthy prison sentences or conspired to concoct a story of what happened that day.

Sacco added a police surveillance video recorded the day of the murder does not show Lee near McDaniel’s vehicle before his killing. In fact, he said, the video shows the prosecution’s “star witness,” Allen Blount, approaching McDaniel’s vehicle two minutes before the incident.

Blount was with Lee before the shooting, allegedly helping distract McDaniel while Lee snuck up behind him, Mueller said. Blount told police he did not know Lee planned to kill McDaniel; he was not charged in the crime but faces five years in prison on a weapons possession charge.

“The case may not be as simple or as straightforward as you were told,” Sacco told the jury.

Mueller in his opening statement portrayed Lee, also known as “O,” as a cold-blooded killer concerned with protecting his reputation. Lee allegedly killed McDaniel because he believed McDaniel had stolen drugs, cash and a weapon from a safe house earlier in the day. Mueller said there is doubt McDaniel stole anything from Lee that day, meaning Lee killed him for no reason.

McDaniel was a part-time marijuana dealer. The day he was killed, he had just sold some drugs to youths playing basketball in Jerry Burrell Park, Mueller said.

Mueller said Lee fired two bullets from a .22-caliber semi-automatic handgun into McDaniel’s body as he tried to crawl away, begging for his life and saying he was a father with children.

One shot was nonfatal, passing through McDaniel’s body. The other was fatal, however, Mueller said. He said Lee took careful aim and fired into McDaniel’s chest. “It couldn’t have been more on point; it was a shot to the heart,” he said.

Even this shot did not kill McDaniel immediately. As he lay twitching and making incomprehensible noises, youths who had been playing basketball moments earlier came to the car and looked in, Mueller said. Rather than call 911 for help, they went back to playing basketball, he said. “Someone else, a stranger, called 911.”

“You get some idea of the nature of the response police faced when they came to conduct an investigation,” Mueller said.

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