According to cops, the violence occurred around 8 p.m. on Thursday, July 1, as Raymond "Ray Ray" Smith, 28 of Port Ewen, Scott Nesbit of Kingston and another, as yet unidentified, man walked down Clinton Avenue on their way to Tommy's Deli near the corner of Franklin Street. At 84 Clinton Ave., the men encountered a group of people hanging out on the porch and working on a car parked out front. Among them, police said, was Albert "Burt" Lawling, 23, of Maple Street. Police believe Lawling and Smith had clashed in a knife fight on Cedar Street back on May 29. The dust-up left Lawling with major lacerations to his face and neck, while Smith suffered a less serious wound. Police responded to the incident, but neither man would cooperate with detectives and no charges were filed.
Police believe that Smith and his companions may have exchanged taunts with Lawling about the slashing as they passed by 84 Clinton. A few minutes later, returning from the deli, the three men passed the house again. But this time Lawling was waiting - with a .40 caliber semi-automatic pistol. One person who witnessed the shooting said that Lawling simply walked up to Smith, held out the pistol sideways and opened fire at point blank range.
"He didn't say anything, he just walked up to him and 'bam,' said the witness, who asked to remain anonymous. "Then he got in a black car and drove away."
According to police, Lawling fired four shots, hitting Smith in the abdomen and chest. Another bullet tore through Nesbit's thigh, while the fourth hit a car parked in front of 80 Clinton Ave. Smith collapsed on the sidewalk bleeding - bloodstains and what was said to be his lighter remained on the sidewalk the next day - and was airlifted to Albany Medical Center where he was listed in critical condition. Police said that he was released from the hospital on July 6.
Nesbit, meanwhile, fled the scene and apparently treated the gunshot wound himself with peroxide and store-bought bandages. Days later, when police tracked him down to question him about the incident, Nesbit had still not received medical treatment for what Kingston police Detective Lt. Tim Matthews described as "A pretty big hole" through his thigh.
"Apparently he did not want to involve himself in the drama anymore than he already had," said Matthews.
'They didn't help him'
According to the person who witnessed the shooting, one man ran to help Smith before paramedics arrived, while the group gathered on the porch of 84 Clinton stood by and watched.
"They didn't help him," the witness said. "Why would they want to help him when it was their friend who shot him?"
Police found the getaway car, a black Mitsubishi Eclipse, parked on Belvedere Street later that night. They also recovered the pistol allegedly used in the shooting at an undisclosed location. But Lawling remains at large. Matthews said that conflicting reports indicated that Lawling was either lying low somewhere in Ulster County or had fled the state. Matthews added that the department was withholding photographs of the fugitive at the request of the Ulster County District Attorney's office to avoid compromising eyewitness identification of the suspect. Matthews added that the victims of the shooting had provided "limited cooperation," while other witnesses had stepped forward. Matthews said that the cooperation of witnesses was welcome and unexpected in a neighborhood where many people turn a blind eye to street violence for fear of retaliation. In February, C.J. King was shot and killed on Cedar Street, allegedly in retaliation for testifying before a grand jury about another shooting incident involving an alleged Bloods gang member. Matthews declined to speak about possible gang involvement in the July 1 shooting, citing the ongoing investigation.
"Whether to cooperate is a tough decision for people, especially because [the King murder] is still fresh in people's minds," said Matthews. "But in this case we got some cooperation which we haven't had in past shootings."