Melvin Ray still doesn't know why someone opened fire on him and his wife of several hours in 2014, fatally wounding her, Ray told jurors on Monday.
Ray admitted that after his driver’s side window exploded during a volley of gunshots, he pulled his wife’s pistol to return fire. Shots were exchanged between the Dodge Charger that Ray was driving and a white GMC Terrain SUV.
Ray, the widower of Tiffany Davenport-Ray, was called to the witness stand in the trial of Awnterio Dwan Lowery, 31, of Berryton, who is charged with the shooting death of the bride early on May 25, 2014. Lowery is alleged to be the driver of the SUV.
Monday marked the start of the second week of trial for Lowery, who is charged with premeditated first-degree murder; attempted first-degree murder of Ray; criminal discharge of a firearm at an occupied dwelling; possession of cocaine; possession of marijuana; and possession of drug paraphernalia.
Ray testified Monday the wedding had occurred on May 24, 2014, followed by a reception and an early-morning post-reception gathering at the Elks Club, S.E. 13th and Madison.
Defense attorney Gary Conwell suggested an argument or dispute with someone had resulted in the SUV following the Charger, then Ray fired the first shot, blowing out a tire, to disable the SUV.
“I never fired first,” Ray said.
During cross-examination by Conwell and earlier questioning by senior assistant district attorney Dan Dunbar, Ray repeatedly denied having any beefs, disputes or problems with anyone on his wedding day.
“No problems at all,” Ray said. “I don't know what sparked this.”
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Ray, who lives in Wichita, noted he often visited Topeka, never had any problems and never was hiding or avoiding anyone because of a dispute.
Ray said that years ago, he had a fist fight with a man named Andre Baker at a Gage night spot, but about a month later, Baker and Ray crossed paths at a gas station at S.E. 28th and California.
“We both said it was over,” Ray said of any ill feelings.
On Jan. 3, 2006, Baker, then 23, was shot numerous times in the chest, abdomen and head as he sat in his car at 935 S.E. 21st, according to CJOnline.com archives.
Ray testified his name surfaced in the case, and police questioned him about it. No arrests were made in the case.
“That’s the only thing I can think of,” Ray said, referring to a motive for someone to shoot him.
As the bride and groom were driving away from the Elks Club, Ray testified he saw a white SUV following them.
Meanwhile, he and his wife, whom he called “Tiff,” talked about their wedding day. She leaned her car seat back and said how tired she was.
“I leaned over to tell her we got things to do, we’ve got to consummate this marriage,” Ray testified.
Then the driver’s side window exploded, and all Ray saw was muzzle flash, he testified.
He grabbed his wife’s pistol from the console and returned fire, then asked if everyone in the car was OK.
The couple also was giving a ride to a man going to his home in southeast Topeka.
“ ‘Tiff’ never said anything,” Ray said. “I turned and looked at her and there was blood everywhere.”
Ray said he fired two or three shots at the SUV and didn’t know whether he hit anybody.
At the emergency department at Stormont-Vail Regional Health Center, Ray pulled his wife out of the car.
“There was so much blood, she fell out of my arms,” Ray testified.
Ray told Terrance Smith, the passenger, to stay with his wife.
Conwell questioned whether Ray left his wife in her time of need.
“I left my wife with nurses and paramedics,” Ray said.
Ray said he fled from the hospital and was trying to call someone to track down who was responsible for his wife’s shooting.
“I was out to get someone that night,” Ray said. “I was emotional, upset and that’s why I walked off.”
Ray denied pitching the pistol, saying he dropped it inside the Charger. Police never recovered the firearm, and Ray said he didn’t know what happened to it. When police questioned him that night, Ray first told them he hadn’t fired the pistol at the SUV because he is a convicted felon, and “we’re not allowed to have firearms,” Ray said.
On repeated questioning by Conwell about lying to police about firing the pistol, Ray finally leaned into the courtroom microphone to loudly say, “Yes, I lied because I’m a felon with a gun.” Ray was released from federal prison on June 6, 2008, after he served a two-year sentence for selling drugs, he testified. Ray then attended barber college in Wichita and has worked as a barber since then. The Topeka Capital-Journal was the only media outlet covering the case on Monday.
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