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Adel McTier's defense lawyer already told the judge that McTier fatally shot a lifelong buddy, who was trying to prevent McTier from driving home to Amherst under the influence of alcohol.
"It was the booze, judge," defense attorney Joel L. Daniels said. "Too many Jack Daniels. Too many beer chasers."
But when McTier testified Friday, he couldn't bring himself to say he pulled the trigger.
"You killed Alton Sease, correct?" asked prosecutor Gary W. Hackbush.
"The gun was discharged," McTier replied. "He died from a gunshot wound."
"Did you kill Alton Sease?" Hackbush asked again.
"I don't deny the gun discharged. I don't deny he was shot," McTier said.
"So the gun magically fired?" Hackbush asked.
"Probably not," McTier said.
"Did some divine intervention come down and pull the trigger?" Hackbush asked.
McTier, 69, of Sundown Trail, Amherst, recalled a night of sharing drinks with Sease at his friend's Colorado Avenue home. Sease's garage included a stocked bar, table, refrigerator, stove, television and sound system.
Daniels described it as Sease's "man cave."
The two retirees talked every day and spent a lot of time together, as many as three or four days a week, often at Sease's home, where the two would "have a little refreshment," McTier said.
"We were like brothers," McTier said of Sease, whom he had known since their childhood days growing up in Baxley, Ga.
Both men served in the military, with McTier receiving a Purple Heart as a combat infantryman in Vietnam. The two reconnected in 1967 after their military service ended and both moved to Buffalo.
McTier's nickname for Sease was "Big Al" because Sease stood 6 feet, 6 inches tall.
Before retiring, McTier worked three decades as a plumber, and Sease worked at General Mills.
But after hours of drinking whiskey - McTier had shots of Jack Daniels while Sease drank Chivas Regal - first at a local bar and then later at Sease's home, their decades-long friendship ended violently.
At first, the two just pushed and shoved.
Was McTier drunk?
"I knew I had quite a bit to drink," McTier said in court. "I felt I could drive OK."
But Sease didn't see it that way.
"He told me he wasn't going to let me leave because I was in no shape to drive my truck," McTier testified. "I felt I was all right."
McTier said that when he tried to leave, Sease blocked him and the two "tussled for a while."
McTier wanted to go home, he said, because he had to get up early the next morning to get his twin 12-year-old granddaughters off to school and also to care for his disabled wife. The McTiers have custody of the two granddaughters.
Craig Carroll, 17, a next-door neighbor, watched what happened in Sease's yard from his second-floor window. He said he heard Sease tell McTier, "I can't let you go home. You're too drunk."
McTier stumbled two or three times trying to walk to his 2002 Cadillac Escalade SUV, Carroll said.
The two friends argued.
After Sease got McTier back to the garage, he sat near the door, Carroll said.
Both men calmed down, and it seemed like the confrontation was over, he said.
Carroll said he heard Sease tell McTier that "you're not going to get past me."
But when Sease put his head down, McTier again headed for his SUV and he got in it. Sease soon followed him.
"Al reached in and pulled the keys out," Carroll testified earlier this week.
"I remember getting to the truck," McTier testified.
And McTier said he remembered his friend grabbing keys from the ignition.
But he said he did not remember much else.
"The thing is a blur," he said. "I don't remember pulling the gun out. The next thing I heard was the gun discharge."
Carroll, the neighbor, said he saw the flash of gunfire.
"Al screamed out," Carroll said. "The shooter was looking at Al, saying his name."
And then McTier passed out and fell nearly on top of Sease, Carroll said.
McTier, who in 1981 obtained a license to carry a gun, said he did not remember taking the gun from his jacket or pulling the trigger.
He doesn't remember falling nearly on top of the fatally wounded Sease, or talking to the police officers who responded to the 911 call.
He said he could not recall being taken to Erie County Medical Center.
"That's pretty convenient that you don't remember anything that led up to the murder of your friend, Alton Sease," Hackbush replied.
Prosecutors said McTier pulled a .38-caliber Smith & Wesson revolver from his jacket and shot Sease in the chest.
"For this good deed, he paid with his life," prosecutor Patrick B. Shanahan said of Sease. "Adel McTier had his .38 special on him, and nothing was going to stop him."
"Judge, that's when the booze took over," Daniels said to State Supreme Court Justice Penny M. Wolfgang.
"He killed his buddy," Daniels said. "He killed his pal. He killed his best friend. The last thing he'd ever want to do is hurt his best pal."
Now, McTier faces a second-degree murder charge. The bench trial continues Monday. He faces 25 years to life in prison if convicted.
McTier's lawyers, Daniels and Franklin Pratcher, are seeking to persuade Wolfgang to convict him of a less-serious charge, like second-degree manslaughter.
Police Detective Brian Ross said McTier was distraught when he was questioned at Buffalo Police Headquarters. McTier asked for God's forgiveness when giving a statement, Ross said.
"The gun fired, and it hit him. I can't lie about that," McTier said in the statement, according to Ross.
"The moment the gun went off was a blur," McTier told the detective.
"I really don't remember how the accident happened."
Police Officer Mark Goodspeed was among the officers who responded to the scene.
Officers were looking for the gun. Goodspeed recovered the weapon when he lifted McTier from the ground.
"The gun fell out of his pocket," Goodspeed said.
And he also got a better view of the victim, who was face down on the street.
"He had a set of car keys in his hand," Goodspeed said.

email: plakamp@buffnews.com