A Snitch in Time

A gunshot victim defies the inner-city code of silence.

By Mike Newall
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 17 | Posted Oct. 13, 2009

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Fools and babies. This is one of Ragland’s favorite sayings. He repeats it often, and says it explains his good fortune in life, of which he feels he’s had a lot of. Like the time the police surrounded a house he was robbing. Ragland crawled underneath a big pile of garbage bags filled with dirty laundry and stayed there for hours. The police searched the home but didn’t find him.

“I’ve always had a knack for escaping situations,” he says.

Ragland says he bought drugs from Keith Davis many times and he would sometimes sell stolen goods to Davis’ father.

“His father was always good to me,” says Ragland.

Davis—who’s been known on the street as Kidney since his twin brother donated him a kidney some years back—isn’t a big drug boss, says Ragland, but not just another corner boy either. Mid-level management. He’s 10 years younger than Ragland, taller and bigger-built. Around the time of the shooting, September 2006, about $1,500 worth of Davis’ coke went missing, enough drugs for Davis to be in trouble with his corner boss. The robbery was a development of sorts, since one week earlier someone had stolen a large jar of change from Davis’ car. The money was stolen in broad daylight while the car was parked in front of Davis’ stash house. 

Davis suspected Ragland of taking the change. 

“I was always the first candidate if anything went missing in the neighborhood,” says Ragland. 

Davis confronted him. Ragland denied taking it—and still does.

“How am I going to come up here in the middle of the day and take something from you,” Ragland remembers telling Davis. “One of your boys would’ve stopped me.”

Davis’ boys were sitting on the porch of the stash house, laughing as Davis screamed at Ragland over loose change. Maybe that’s when one of them got the idea to steal Davis’ coke. Because the way the corner boss later explained it to Ragland, one of Davis’ own workers took the coke and blamed it on him. It was a set-up. Or, as the corner boss put it, a “misunderstanding.”

It was late and Ragland was heading down 54th Street to a deli. The street was desolate. Ragland saw Davis crouching down in an empty lot. He looked like he was hiding something. Ragland figured it was drugs. At the time, he says he didn’t know about the stolen coke or that Davis thought he took it. Davis asked him where he was going.

“To the store, you want anything?”

Davis didn’t answer. Ragland turned to walk away, thinking of the bad luck of it all—that if anybody stole the drugs he thought Davis was hiding, Davis would no doubt come at him for it and he didn’t need that drama in his life. And that’s when Ragland heard the footsteps hard and fast behind him and turned to see Davis pointing a revolver at his head. 

The first bullet pierced his forehead and grazed his skull. The impact spun him around. The next bullet entered behind his left ear and traveled downward, shattering his jaw, bending his spinal cord and lodging deep in his neck. Lying face down in his blood, Ragland decided to pray. 

After ten days in the hospital, Ragland’s mother wheeled him home with a wired jaw and an $80,000 medical tab. Doctors told him the feeling in his left side would slowly return. He convalesced in a small room at his mother’s house. Davis immediately sent people to his house saying he would pay him if he changed his story. Ragland’s mother wouldn’t let strangers inside the house, so Davis sent people who were close to Ragland.

“My own friends,” he says. 

Ragland had expected an offer. That’s how it goes on the streets, he says. Davis would throw him some money and try to beat the case without having to draw any extra heat from the cops.

“People try to buy their way out of everything in the neighborhood,” says Ragland. “Especially something of the magnitude that he did to me.”

Veteran Homicide Detective Thomas Gaul isn’t working the case, but the only thing that surprises him is the amount of the payoff. 

“It’s usually not as high as $5,000,” he says. “Maybe $1,500 or $500 or a drug package they can sell—some kind of informal street restitution.”

But Ragland was not happy about the $5,000. 

“It was an insult to my intelligence,” he says. “They were taking advantage of my addiction. I’d smoke that up in a week.”

By now, Ragland’s mother had told him welfare would be picking up the medical tabs. So why shouldn’t he have some money to help ease the suffering, he thought. His pain was lessening by the week, but the desire to get high was growing by the hour. 

“He was a drug dealer and I use drugs,” says Ragland. “I was going to take him for all I could.”

But he couldn’t shake Davis putting two in his head. 

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Comments 1 - 17 of 17
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1. tragic said... on Oct 15, 2009 at 10:08PM

“This is a novel...a Philadelphia novel.”

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2. Anonymous said... on Oct 17, 2009 at 10:51AM

“It's a shame after all of that, he is on the streets and on the run, the system should of found him a place to hide.”

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3. M said... on Oct 17, 2009 at 03:16PM

“Don't tell is just a typical abusers weapon against the abusee. I hurt you, don't tell; I rape you, don't tell, I molest you, don't tell, I rob you, don't tell, I kill you, don't tell. It's nothing honorable or loyal about it. It's just duping or scaring the victim into protecting the victimizer. It everybody (the majority) that was being victimized would follow Ragland's example and would just stand up and say no more to the abusers (the minority) they would run the abusers out of the community real quick. I wish the best for Mr. Ragland. The 'hood ought to get behind him, and protect him, because he's really helping them all.”

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4. Anonymous said... on Oct 18, 2009 at 06:07PM

“He still uses crack, he says, but not as much as he did before the shooting. 

“Just socially now,” he says.

What a fine upstanding human being.”

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5. speakeasy said... on Oct 19, 2009 at 01:41PM

“Even though he’s no angel, Ragland is doing a great service for his neighborhood and our city as a whole. The fact that Kidney’s brother died by being murdered the same way Kidney intended to murder Ragland is a perfect example of the cycle of senseless violence in our neighborhoods – and the sickening consequences of individuals acting without conscience or any trace of humanity. People, stop and think.”

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6. 61 said... on Oct 19, 2009 at 08:52PM

“Give the man a hand if the shoe was on the other foot (you would tell to). I hate black on black crime, but the truth is he was suppose to tell. Just because he is on crack does not mean he is not one of god creatures, He has feelins just like every one else he has love ones that will morn him to. No one is better. We are all made by the same god.All in his image. Who are we to judge his life style. Do you walk in your neighbors shoes. Do not judge if you do not want to be judge about your short comings in life.”

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7. a concerned neighbor from 56th & Lansdowne AVE said... on Oct 20, 2009 at 12:05PM

“I know this guy personally and i aint in the streets but i think he's a piece of SHIT.He been terrorizing the neighborhood for years .Breaking into peoples homes and bussiness not jus robbing drug dealers . He talks like he's a victim but he truely is the victimizer . His family been in the neighborhood for years and alot of people have either grown up with him or someone in his family with that being said thatsprobably why no one has done anything to him until.In the street life were this guy really lives there is supposed to be a code were if you do dirt you get dirt done to you . So when he said that people were coming up to him a saying you snitching and acting like he like they couldnt believe it thats why. All the things this guy has done in this neighborhood & has gottn a pass for has now decide that he's gonna ruin another man life.....Truly amazing”

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8. tragic said... on Oct 20, 2009 at 02:09PM

“yes, the ragland guy is a drug abusing thief, but the guy who's life he's "ruiningg”

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9. tragic said... on Oct 20, 2009 at 02:12PM

“hey concerned neighbor,

yes, the ragland guy is a drug abusing thief. but the guy who's life he's "gonna ruin," as you say did shoot him twice in the head. the street codes you talk about are exactly what leads to no one ever standing up and telling authorities about the people shooting up their neighborhoods and killing innocent people”

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10. concerned neighbor said... on Oct 20, 2009 at 05:29PM

“@ tragic
Please be clear that I wasnt talking bout people who are innocent getting shot . I was talking bout a guy that has done plenty of things that would have probably gottn him shot or hurt very bad......and he is far from innocent and like what I stated above this guy has run wild in this neighborhood doing everything from robbing an old pastor( knocking im dwn 2 ground & ruffing him up pretty bad) to breaking into elderly peoples homes.....He should be the last person to go tell this bullshit shit story full of lies......yeah he got shot and he survived . But because of the things that he has gotten away with why not extended that same grace that was extended to him. HE KNOWS THE TRUTH..............”

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11. Anonymous said... on Oct 20, 2009 at 07:36PM

“You can take em both off the streets and there'll be another couple scumbags to fill their places. True, it makes for a good story, but I'm sick of ghetto gangsters. Fuck em all!”

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12. StillaPanther2 said... on Oct 20, 2009 at 08:58PM

“There is no use in preaching to these people (my Brothers and Sisters) because this negative behavoir is ingrained in their souls. Just stop snitching will not change our neighborhood that suffers from this mindset. We should (and could) start by reporting ALL criminal behavoirs and noting these reports with the newspaper to prompt the proper agencies to repond in a timely and IMMEDIATE way. No more selling by your children on the corners. No more boosting. You know what's happening in your neighborhood. Think about the number of outside people that depend on you acting in these criminal and destrutive way. The adults in this social arena continue to contaminate the young. Its hard being honest and law abiding...but the rewards are sooo great when you can sit on your stoop without the fear of being attacked because of your negative and destructive ways. Honestly I want to have a reality show whereby all the hoods, players and miscreants of our "hood" can be placed on an island .”

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13. tragic said... on Oct 20, 2009 at 09:07PM

“concerned neighbor,

i don't think the story is about ragland's past. he might be a total thief drug addict, but there's more important things to talk about. what i meant by innocent is the next time kidney decides to shoot someone in the head over cocaine he could miss and hit a kid on a bike. or a bus driver wlaking home from work. and no one will step forward and then we have this whole conversation about stop snitching again. there's more important things than ragland's past. it may no be my neighborhood, but it is my city, and i don't want kidney out on the streets. i'm sorry you do.

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14. Anonymous said... on Oct 29, 2009 at 02:30AM

“Lets out a guy for snitching. You tool. No wonder we lead the US in murders and violent crimes.”

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15. Anonymous said... on Dec 17, 2009 at 08:09AM

“Anyone who hurt me or does anything to the people I care about, I'll snitch the ish out of them, I dont care about some "code."”

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16. BostonBaked said... on Nov 18, 2010 at 08:25AM

“" Concerned Neighbor..."

to me your just another hood rat just like them.....everybody deserves chances and this was a chance he did not want to take........so if someone shot you what would u do?????? exactly preobably snitch .....i would snitch because i am a college student and i have to live for my son.......instead of watching my back because of these dirty ass drug dealers........get it together ........like all that bull shit ya'll talking is dumb”

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17. normal said... on Feb 23, 2014 at 01:18PM

“I going thru the sand thing”


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