Schenectady County

Witness: Lee said he shot man in groin

A prosecution witness in Omari Lee’s first-degree murder trial testified on Tuesday that Lee told he
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A prosecution witness in Omari Lee’s first-degree murder trial testified on Tuesday that Lee told her a year ago he shot Xavier McDaniel, but not fatally, as McDaniel sat in his car on Hamilton Hill.

Valerie Chapman, 30, formerly of 313 Front St., Schenectady, told her story for the first time since April 3, 2007, the day McDaniel, 21, a former basketball star and small-time marijuana dealer, was shot to death near Jerry Burrell Park.

Chapman never reported the information, which she learned within moments of McDaniel’s shooting, because she did not want to get involved. She testified only after the Schenectady County District Attorney’s Office located her last week and asked her to appear. She received no considerations for her testimony, officials said.

Chapman said in testimony and in 10-page statement to police that a break-in at 313 Front St. on April 2, 2007, prompted Lee, now 27, and his friend, Allen Blount, 19, to track down McDaniel the next day.

Chapman was living at 313 Front St. because she had recently separated from her husband. She said she was not involved in the drug trade that occurred out of the house. Lee and Blount did not live there but would store crack cocaine, cash and weapons there. They would visit frequently, as did McDaniel, with whom they were casually acquainted.

Chapman said she and a friend were driving around the city smoking marijuana April 2, 2007, when they got a call from Arianna, a woman living at Front Street and dating Lee, saying someone had just robbed the house. Almost an ounce of crack cocaine, $7,000 and a .357-caliber handgun were stolen.

LEE FURIOUS

When they arrived at Front Street Lee was there already, Chapman said. She said he displayed a handgun and searched the house. Blount said the gun was a .22-caliber semi-automatic he had given Lee earlier. McDaniel was shot with a .22-caliber, but police never recovered the weapon.

“He was mad, very mad when he found out what happened,” Chapman said. “Arianna said maybe ‘X’ [Xavier] could have done it. Omari then left with his gun in his car.”

Sometime later that day, Lee returned to 313 Front St., Chapman said. “Omari came in a told us he shot X,” she said. “I said you killed him? And he said, ‘No, I just shot him in his privates.’”

Chapman said she was shocked by the news, as she considered McDaniel a good friend. “He assured me he only shot him once in the privates,” she said.

Blount corroborated Chapman’s testimony Tuesday about the break-in and Lee’s reaction. He took the stand for three hours in the afternoon, but halted his testimony at the request of Acting Schenectady County Court Judge Polly Hoye, who recessed the trial at 4:30 p.m. Blount is scheduled to take the stand again today. He is expected to testify about what happened when he and Lee found McDaniel in his car next to Jerry Burrell Park, moments before the fatal shooting.

Prosecutor Phillip Mueller said McDaniel probably did not steal the items from the house, and that another man whom Blount encountered the day before inside the house might have been responsible. Chapman testified the doors to the house were never locked and people could come and go as they pleased.

Afterwards, Chapman said Lee announced he would go to New York City so police could not connect him with Schenectady “at the time of the murder,” Chapman said.

Before he left Front Street, Lee threw a bag of marijuana on the table, Chapman said. “That’s Xavier’s s—,” Lee told everyone, she said. “We smoked it.”

Blount said he and Lee initially approached McDaniel under the pretext of buying marijuana.

The prosecution said that facing Lee and his handgun, McDaniel begged for his life and told Lee to take his marijuana stash, which Lee did. Lee then shot him twice. One shot was non-fatal, but the other pierced his heart.

Blount said in response to Mueller’s background questions that he and Lee were members of the Bloods, a nationwide gang. They both have the same tattoo on their hands, the initials “MB,” which stands for MacBalla, a subset of the Bloods.

Blount is serving a five-year sentence for weapons possession in connection with McDaniel’s killing. The plea agreement is in return for his testifying truthfully against Lee.

Lee’s trial began Tuesday and is expected to last three weeks. If convicted on the top count of first-degree murder, he could face life in prison without parole.

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