Riccardo McCray, of Buffalo, appeared in city court Thursday morning, solemn and surrounded by a dozen police officers and guards. The plea was entered on his behalf. No bail was set.
McCray turned himself in at a TV studio Wednesday afternoon, and police charged him with four counts of second-degree murder.
He was accused of opening fire on a crowd outside the City Grill around 2:30 a.m. Aug. 14. Four people were killed and four others wounded. Three of the injured have been released from the hospital while the fourth remains in critical condition.
Prosecutor James Bargnesi on Thursday declined to provide a possible motive or offer any details about the case, except to say that it was headed to a grand jury.
"We expect this to be a continuously evolving investigation," Bargnesi said.
The restaurant's managers, reacting to a dispute, had decided to close early on the morning of Aug. 14 and told patrons to leave. One witness said about 200 people crowded onto the sidewalk, some trying to quell a shoving match in a parking lot.
Some of the victims were part of a group that had been attending a party at the restaurant that was a prelude to an anniversary celebration for 30-year-old Danyell Mackin and his wife of one year, Tanisha. The two were originally from Buffalo and lived in Austin, Texas. She was not injured.
Also killed were Tiffany Wilhite, 32; Shawntia McNeil, 27; and Willie McCaa, 26.
A parolee who is a friend of one of the injured was arrested within hours of the shootings. He was charged with four counts of murder, but the charges were dismissed the next day after witnesses told police they had the wrong man.
At a news conference Wednesday evening, police Commissioner Daniel Derenda said McCray was the only suspect and "we believe we have a very solid case." He asked that the media not publish pictures of the suspect and said he couldn't comment on McCray's background or other aspects of the investigation.
In May 2009, McCray was arrested on charges of having a loaded rifle in his car. Officers investigating a report of shots fired said they came upon McCray changing a flat tire, noticed several bullet holes in the rear and driver's side of the vehicle and then spotted the rifle on the front seat.
By Associated Press Writer Ben Dobbin