Basheem D. Bennett, 21 of Poughkeepsie, pleaded guilty last week — two days before his trial was scheduled to begin — to the killing of Ryan Gray on April 20 at Murphy’s Restaurant & Pub in New Paltz. He is scheduled to be sentenced on January 23, 2015 for second-degree murder, which carries a sentence of 18 years to life.
According to the office of Ulster County District Attorney Holley Carnright, Bennett entered the bar on April 20 at about 2 in the morning and shot both Gray and his girlfriend, Ida Davis, with a 9 mm pistol; Davis survived.
New Paltz Police Chief Joseph Snyder said that while the killing was the first he is aware of in a local bar, it hasn’t changed the culture much. “This incident was not due to anything that the bar, community or usual customers did to provoke it,” he said. “This was simply a planned attack and it was a matter of opportunity.”
At an April 23 press conference, Carnright said he believed that the killing was in retaliation for the November 2013 murder of Alvin Hayles in Poughkeepsie.
Snyder said that cooperation from police across the river was key to arresting Bennett just two days after the incident. “A tremendous resource and assistance came from the City of Poughkeepsie Police Department, especially their detective division,” he said. “Most of the individuals involved were from their location so they were instrumental to the investigation. I also credit Lieutenant [Rob] Lucchesi for running the everyday operations of the investigation and coordinating the efforts.”
Following the shooting, some local leaders raised the question of whether bars should be closing earlier, but the debate died before reaching the floor of the Ulster County Legislature, which is the body that would pass laws about closing times.
“There is no law that could have prevented this planned attack,” said Chief Snyder. “Our tavern owners make great efforts in working with our agency and they continue to be vigilant in attempting to identify problems before they happen.”
Snyder added that officers on patrol the morning of April 20 responded to the scene before a 911 call even came in.
While the quick arrest and subsequent guilty plea may help bring closure to Gray’s family, Snyder couldn’t find anything positive that resulted from the attack, on any level. “It is impossible to think the loss of life in such a senseless crime can have anything positive,” he said, noting that police officers carry with them the memory of not being able to prevent such a tragedy.