Friend of victims says he fired gun at Lewis' limousine

Exchange of evidence reveals shooter's identity

bullets flattened tire

April 06, 2000|By Jon Morgan | Jon Morgan,SUN STAFF

A friend of the men murdered after a Super Bowl party in Atlanta has told police he fired a gun at Ray Lewis' vehicle as it sped from the scene.

Solving a mystery that has lingered since the Jan. 31 double stabbing in Atlanta, the Decatur, Ga., man told police a few weeks ago that he fired the bullets found in the side of Lewis' rented limousine, according to sources familiar with the investigation who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

The identity of Marlin Burros, 33, was disclosed for the first time to the defense teams in an exchange of evidence this week, sources said. Prosecutors and attorneys for the defendants, citing a gag order in the case, have declined to discuss evidence.

Burros told police he was trying to get the 37-foot limo to stop because he believed it was carrying men who had hurt two of his friends, Jacinth Baker, a 21-year-old art student, and Richard Lollar, a 24-year-old barber. The bullets did not strike anyone, but did flatten a tire of the limo.

Lewis, an All-Pro Ravens linebacker, and two co-defendants are scheduled to be tried May 15 on charges of assault and murder in connection with the early-morning stabbing deaths of Baker and Lollar down the street from a fashionable nightclub.

Shell casings found on and under the victims' bodies matched holes found in the limousine, sources said. That would support the contention of one of Lewis' co-defendants, Joseph Sweeting, 34, of Miami, that Lollar may have brought the gun to the scene and been an aggressor -- possibly making his murder a matter of self-defense.

Loved ones of Lollar and Baker say they were peaceable people unlikely to have picked a fight with Lewis' group or -- as one witness has alleged -- to have plotted to rob Lewis' companions.

Toxicology reports showed that both of the victims had alcohol in their systems, although at levels just under the amount that Georgia law defines as too intoxicated to drive, sources said. Lollar's system contained marijuana, too. Several bags of marijuana were found by police in the pockets of Baker, according to the medical examiner's report.

Burros told police that he retrieved the gun from his car after seeing his friends lying injured on the street. Burros spoke to investigators on March 16 without requesting or receiving immunity from prosecution, one source said. He has not yet produced the weapon, which he said he purchased a year or so earlier in Ohio, the source said.

Burros has not been charged in the case. He told police he did not witness the fight that led to the stabbings and initially thought his friends had simply been knocked unconscious.

Burros was unavailable to comment yesterday, but Kellye Smith, Lollar's fiance, said Burros was once a part-owner of a hair salon in which Lollar worked as a barber. Like Lollar and Baker, Burros grew up in Akron, Ohio, but moved to Georgia, she said.

Burros told police he could not say if Lewis participated in the fight.

This does nothing to clear up the confusion that surrounds witness accounts of the fight. Lewis' attorneys say he was merely acting as a peacemaker and never struck or stabbed anyone, while the driver of the limousine said he saw him throw at least one punch at a victim during the melee.

Another member of the victim's group, rap singer Jeff Gwen of Akron, told police that he saw Lewis participate in the tussle but did not see him handle a knife.

Chris Shinholster, also of Akron, told police he approached Lewis and tried unsuccessfully to get him to intervene to stop the fight.

Neither Gwen nor Shinholster was able to pick Sweeting out of a photo lineup, although they did pick out the third co-defendant, Reginald Oakley, 31, of Baltimore. Shinholster told police he saw Baker hit Oakley, a member of the Lewis group, over the head with a champagne bottle.

Gwen and Shinholster both said they saw an unidentified member of Lewis' party, but not Lewis or his co-defendants, brandish a knife early in the fight. Gwen said the man later swiped at him with the knife, but missed. Neither Gwen nor Shinholster could tell police who stabbed the victims.

Gwen, Shinholster, Burros and another man, Lemeitrice "Mechi" Twitty, all left the scene in Burros' car.

Meanwhile, a prosecution subpoena filed yesterday in the Fulton County Courthouse illustrates the breadth of the investigation in the case. Signed by Judge Alice D. Bonner on March 8, it orders AirTouch Cellular, a phone company, to turn over records of cellular calls placed on the morning of the killings.

Specifically, it asks for all cell-phone traffic at the Georgia Terrace Hotel between 4: 30 a.m. and 8 a.m. Lewis stayed at that hotel and he and the two co-defendants all went there after leaving the scene of the killings.

The subpoena also asked for all phone calls between 3: 30 a.m. and 4: 30 a.m. near the intersection where the men died, and at two other Atlanta-area hotels that morning.

Another subpoena was recently served on Garfield Yuille of Baltimore, demanding that he testify for the prosecution at the trial, sources said. Yuille, a Baltimore-area model and former roommate of Oakley's, may be an important link between him and Lewis for prosecutors. Yuille is not believed to have been in Atlanta at the time of the killings.

Defense attorneys have described Sweeting and Oakley as "hangers on" who were not close to Lewis. But prosecutors have suggested the men had long-standing friendships and that Oakley frequently stayed at Lewis' home and attended Ravens home games.

At a hearing in February, prosecutors submitted a photograph seized from Lewis' Baltimore home that shows Lewis with Yuille and Sweeting. Testimony at the hearing showed that Sweeting was friendly with a number of University of Miami football players at the time Lewis played for the college.

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