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Shooting at Riverview graduation party leaves friends' views divided

RIVERVIEW — Khayri McCray had a 3.0 grade point average, success on the football field and plans to attend Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University.

Now the Spoto High School senior has the possibility of a life spent in prison.

A possibility some who know him can hardly believe. And that others don't find surprising.

McCray, 18, is charged with second-degree murder and attempted murder for the shooting that killed Devante Lamar Dallas, a senior at Durant High School, and injured two others early Sunday at a graduation party that grew out of hand at a Riverview rental hall.

Xandria Britt, a friend of McCray's on Facebook, described him as smart and respectful. Still, she thinks he tends to hang out with a questionable crowd, she wrote in a message to the St. Petersburg Times on Monday.

"Unfortunately he surrounds himself with the wrong friends. …" Britt wrote. "I don't think he has the guts to shoot someone because he is so kind, but who knows?"

Students leaving Spoto on Monday afternoon said the incident was talked about around campus. Thoughts about McCray differed.

Devon Grant, a 17-year-old junior, who has trigonometry class with McCray, said he was surprised to hear McCray had been arrested. "He was a good guy," he said.

Terrica Allen, 17, said she wasn't shocked to see McCray on the news the night after the shooting because "he was always into fights and stuff."

At school, McCray was a running back and defensive back for the Spoto Spartans. He was named player of the game for Eastern Hillsborough in December's county All-Star Game, scoring on a 28-yard interception return at Raymond James Stadium.

• • •

On Saturday night, McCray showed up uninvited to a party at the Winthrop Barn and Theater in Riverview that swelled from the 70 invited to more than 300, Hillsborough County sheriff's deputies said.

About 1 a.m. Sunday, a fight broke out. Deputies aren't sure what it was over. Someone hit McCray in the nose.

Parents and chaperones kicked out McCray and the others involved in the fight, deputies said.

But deputies said McCray came back with a gun. He fired into a crowd that had formed outside the hall, deputies said, and hit three people.

Dallas, 18, had a gunshot wound to the chest and died at the scene. Jeffrey Thomas, 41, was shot in his lower back and De Ron Richardson, 20, was shot in his upper right chest. Thomas and Richardson, both of Valrico, were treated and released from a local hospital, deputies said.

Thomas was among the parents who had rented the space for a graduation party, authorities said.

Members of the Thomas family declined comment to Times reporters Sunday and Monday.

A man who answered the door of Richardson's home Monday, who identified himself only as De Ron Richardson's father, said his son was recovering.

"He's shocked and sore," he said.

• • •

A couple of weeks ago on his Facebook page, McCray wrote about his bond with his mom:

"A mother never pokes or pries but stands quietly by your side, giving you the strength you need encouraging u 2 succeed. A mother is one who can be strong when you need someone to lean on. You share a love that knows no end, you're more than my mother, you are my friend. I love u ma."

A visibly emotional woman who identified herself as his mother declined to talk about her son Monday morning to a Times reporter.

"I don't have anything to say," she said, standing outside McCray's Tampa home.

McCray turned himself in Sunday evening with his parents by his side as deputies drew up a warrant for his arrest, authorities said.

McCray has been arrested three times before in Florida on misdemeanor charges of theft and larceny, according to state records.

On May 13, he quoted Bob Marley on his Facebook page: "In this bright future you can't forget your past."

McCray could get a minimum mandatory term of 25 years in prison, with the possibility of a life sentence, if convicted. He is being held without bail.

• • •

Dallas was planning to graduate from Durant High on June 4 and study to become a radiologist, said his mother, Sunceray Dean.

"He dealt with stuff when it came, and he didn't stay mad," she said, recalling her son as "plain and simple."

A friend of Dallas', Eddresa Dasher, said in a message to the Times that he "was an awesome friend."

"He had a laugh that would make you laugh, even if you didn't know what he was laughing about. He had an amazing smile as well (with deep dimples)."

On Monday a team of six grief counselors spent the morning helping friends and classmates at Durant cope.

"We did see a very strong outpouring of emotion at school," said team leader Patrick Canavan, a guidance counselor at the school. "They needed to kind of retell the story, as part of getting through the grieving process."

Durant has seen more than its share of tragedy, he said, with a harrowing string of car accidents during its first decade.

But this incident was shocking and altogether different.

"I've never heard of any Durant kids having fights off campus with weapons," Canavan said.

A Facebook page started in remembrance of Dallas on Monday evening quickly swelled to more than 100 members, with even those who didn't know him leaving words of sorrow.

Students from as many as six schools may have attended the Riverview party, said Clyde Trathowen, principal at Spoto High, and they all bore the responsibility to do the right thing.

"Some of the kids I know, they left at 11 p.m. when they saw it getting out of hand," Trathowen said. "What has to happen is the parents have to know who their kids are out with. Nothing good happens after midnight."

Times staff writers Alexandra Zayas, Hilary Lehman and Joey Knight contributed to this report. Tom Marshall can be reached at tmarshall@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3400.

Shooting at Riverview graduation party leaves friends' views divided 05/24/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, May 25, 2010 10:51am]

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