Man convicted of murder near mall

Lamar Bass, 18, will spend life in prison for the death of a teen near Northgate Mall

Staff WriterJanuary 26, 2007 

— A jury convicted a man of murder in the Christmastime 2005 shooting death of another man outside Northgate Mall.

Lamar Dameian Bass, 18, was convicted of first-degree murder in the death of Lazarren Tyqwan McLean, who was shot to death outside Northgate Mall on Dec. 26, 2005. Witnesses testified in the trial that McLean, 16, was standing up for his sister when the gunfire started.

Bass will spend the rest of his life in prison, the only punishment available for the conviction. Jurors acquitted him of felony assault for wounding another man during the incident.

Before Superior Court Judge Henry Hight sentenced Bass, McLean's grandmother spoke. She said she at first wanted the death penalty for the person who killed McLean.

"I just don't have that kind of stomach in me," Paulette Thorpe said. "I am glad and thankful for the verdict."

Bass said nothing when given an opportunity. Sheriff's deputies escorted him from the courtroom to begin his life in prison.

The incident at the mall on one of the busiest shopping days of the year came as Durham was winding down a shockingly violent 2005. The incident came one month after four young men were shot execution-style in a townhouse. When McLean died at the doorstep of a department store, the violence plaguing the city seemed to be everywhere, no longer limited to particular areas of town.

Bass himself lent some legend to the Northgate shooting. For a month, police chased his shadow across Durham, staking out homes and breaking down doors only to find they had missed him again. Then there were the reports that the young man had dressed as a woman to avoid his captors.

Bass was hiding in a friend's apartment, according to testimony.

But the state's case, presented in Durham County Superior Court, had some problems -- chiefly that few of the witnesses actually could say they saw Bass fire any shots.

During the trial, witnesses said Bass had words with another man on a Durham Area Transit Authority bus. As everyone exited, Bass made comments about McLean's sister, witnesses said. That's when the shooting started.

Bass' attorney, Woody Vann, said Bass wasn't the shooter. McLean's brother, who testified that he saw Bass fire the shots, was mistaken, Vann said, and he simply wanted someone to pay for McLean's death.

Assistant District Attorney Tracey Cline told the jury that the killing was cold-blooded, pre-meditated murder.

Jurors deliberated for about a day before reaching the verdict.

Staff writer Benjamin Niolet can be reached at 956-2404 or bniolet@newsobserver.com.

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