A Snitch in Time

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

By Mike Newall
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 18 | Posted Oct. 13, 2009

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“It was malice,” he says. “I just couldn’t let him get away with it.”

Some months passed. Ragland was walking down 55th on his cane when a car pulled up. Still hiding from the cops, Davis was slumped low in the front seat wearing a hat and glasses. 

“Get in,” he said. “No,” said Ragland. After a few moments, Ragland realized that Davis was not going to try to kill him again. “What’d you shoot me for?” he asked. Davis ignored his question and got down to business. “I’m gonna give you the five grand,” he said. “We got to go to my attorney’s office.”

In the car, Davis gave Ragland $1,500 in twenties. “A down payment,” he said. Blood money, Ragland thought. They cut through Fairmount Park and down Benjamin Franklin Parkway to 15th and Market. The attorney’s office was on the 27th floor. Ragland could see skyscrapers through the tall windows. Framed newspaper clippings of the defense attorney’s big cases hung on the wall. Ragland told the attorney, Gerald Stein, that Davis didn’t shoot him; it was dark and he couldn’t see who did it. 

The attorney wrote the statement down, but didn’t seem too convinced it was true, says Ragland. 

“I think he knew I was lying,” he says. “He kept saying, ‘You sure, because someone did shoot you and I know you know who shot you because you looked right at him; you got the scar right there on your head.’”

(Stein, who has since dropped Davis as a client, says he had no knowledge of a payoff.)

On the ride back to West Philly, Davis assured Ragland that he’d get him “that other bit of money,” soon. Ragland smoked the first installment of 1,500 by the end of the week.

As the preliminary hearing neared, Ragland says Davis’ relatives started visiting him. 

“Keeping tabs on me,” he says. “Making sure I wasn’t going to testify.”

Davis’ girlfriend, Rasheda, stopped by with their young children, the youngest boy being about five or six. She’d tell him the kids needed to grow up with a father and that Davis would learn from his mistake. Sometimes, Davis’ mother would come along too. 

“She had already lost a lot to the streets,” says Ragland. 

Davis’ twin brother, Kevin, was shot in the back of the head a few years ago. 

“The same way he [Davis] tried to kill me,” says Ragland. 

And her teenage grandson, Juicy, was shot dead last November. 

She reminded Ragland that her son is a sick man suffering from kidney disease and any jail sentence would be a death sentence.

“This is my last boy,” she’d say. “Please give him a second chance.”

Ragland didn’t like when the family members visited. It messed with his mind. He knew testifying against Davis would hurt them too. He didn’t like thinking about that.

“The family suffers, the kids suffer,” he says. “They’re doing the time with him.”

He would lie to them and tell them he wasn’t going to testify and be grateful when they left. Especially Davis’ mother. She would sometimes stop by a house her son owned near the block where Ragland went to get high. She was taking care of her son’s dogs while he was in prison. She saw Ragland on the corner buying drugs and got angry.

“All you want to do is blackmail my son and smoke the money up,” she said. “Why don’t you find a job?” 

Ragland tried to avoid her after that.

The preliminary hearing was held in a small district courtroom inside the 18th police district station house. The room was crowded, but Ragland was able to find a seat in the front row. He sat there thinking about what he was about to do. He wasn’t wavering or scared, but he felt pangs of guilt. Ragland had been to this courtroom many times before as a defendant. Though he’d never shot anybody, he’s lived almost his whole life to the left of the law, abiding by the understanding that you don’t snitch. 

“I know the code,” he says.

This is something people in the neighborhood would remind him about later on. 

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Comments 1 - 18 of 18
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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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18. Anonymous said... on Nov 7, 2015 at 10:18AM

“dont forget Robert Nagy from south philadelphia. This kid will snitch on anyone to save his own a** google him”


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