Two former St. Johns University athletes testified at the trial of a man accused of shooting a former linebacker at the college that a minor argument at a bar near the campus escalated into the March 2001 confrontation that left the football player partially paralyzed.
Durron Newman and Omar Lewis, teammates of linebacker Cory Mitchell, who was shot in the spine, took the stand this week in the trial of Christopher Prince in State Supreme Court in Long Island City.
Prince, 22, of Elmont, L.I., is charged with attempted murder and assault in the shooting of Mitchell and Rashon Fray and could face up to 25 years in prison if convicted. Neither Prince nor Fray, who was not seriously injured, were St. Johns students.
Newman and Lewis both contended Prince opened fire at the Jamaica campus, hitting Mitchell and Fray in testimony this week before Judge Joel Blumenfeld.
You cannot forget the face of the man that tried to kill you, said Lewis, referring to Prince, who lives in Elmont, L.I. He fired at me as well as at my friends, said Lewis, a close friend of Mitchell.
Lewis told the jury Tuesday that he arrived at Traditions bar on Hillside Avenue around midnight, where Newman and Mitchell were working as bouncers on the night of March 10, 2001. He said his friends informed him that they had already had an altercation with Eric Mateo, then a St. Johns freshman, and his friends. With pool sticks and beer bottles in their hands, Mateos group glared at Lewis and his friends, Lewis said.
When the bar closed around 2 a.m., Lewis, also of Elmont, said he felt concerned for his friends safety and escorted them back to the campus and their dormitories. A few minutes later, Mateos group, which included Prince, showed up looking for trouble, Lewis testified.
Prince, who was not a St. Johns student, aggressively spoke up for Mateo to ensure no one would physically attack him in the future, according to Lewis testimony. When the argument escalated, Prince pulled a gun and fired once into the air, Lewis said.
Lewis, 22, now a New York City police officer, said he immediately fled the scene, but heard more shots and screams and returned a few minutes later to find Mitchell on the ground. He kept saying, I cant feel my legs, Lewis told jurors.
Defense Attorney Oliver Smith told jurors during opening arguments that Prince, who was released on $100,000 bail, was not present at the shooting.
Mitchell, who was working in Traditions to earn extra money in preparation for the birth of his first child has been undergoing rehabilitation in Westchester. He remains partially paralyzed.
St. Johns has beefed up security since the shooting, especially around its entrance gates .
Reach reporter Brendan Browne by email at TimesLedger@aol.com or by phone at 229-0300, Ext. 155.
©2002 Community News Group
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