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