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Execution Of Ga. Man Near Despite Recantations

By Aug. 19, 1989, when the shooting occurred, Davis had finished high school and had taken a physical to join the Marines. At 20, he was living at home and working for a fence company.

He had once pleaded guilty to a concealed-weapons charge after a traffic stop, but he told the judge a passenger had stowed the gun under the car seat. Davis received a $250 fine. His record was otherwise clean.

The Burger King where the shooting happened is next to a Greyhound bus station, on a ragged edge of this city's touristy historic district. As the restaurant was closing at 1 a.m., a fight over a beer was erupting in the parking lot between a homeless man named Larry Young and another man who, some witnesses said, threatened to shoot him.

After the man pistol-whipped Young, a police officer doing an off-duty shift in uniform as a security guard came out. The officer told the man to halt, witnesses said. Before Officer Mark A. MacPhail could unholster his gun, the man shot him once in the chest, then once in the face.

Lacking a gun or other physical evidence, police were forced to rely on witness accounts to determine the shooter.

Davis and a friend were at the Burger King that night; so were several others. After the shots were fired, they scattered.

In the hours after the shooting, several people at the scene told police that it was too dark, or that it happened too quickly, to know who was who.

But the day after the shooting, a person at the parking lot that night, Sylvester "Red" Coles, came to the police with a lawyer. Some witnesses would later say that Coles was the shooter. But in his meeting with police, Coles implicated Davis.

A manhunt for Davis began. He turned himself in to the police four days later.

At the same time, police were working the streets, asking anyone who might have been there, or who knew Davis, to talk.

"The police came over here four or five times," said Jeffrey Sapp, 38, a neighborhood acquaintance of Davis. "They said, 'You know, your friend is on the run, so he must be guilty.' They said, 'If you don't talk, we can take you to jail for withholding evidence.' "

Sapp eventually told them that Davis had bicycled by his house and confessed to shooting MacPhail.

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