A gunshot victim defies the inner-city code of silence.
“Shit, how could you of all people be a snitch?” they’d ask.
They tell him he should have never pressed charges. That he should’ve dealt with Davis on the street. But Ragland wasn’t going back to jail. Not for Davis. He’d let the law take care of him, but here he was feeling guilty over the man who shot him twice in the head. He just wanted to get the whole thing over with.
A police officer led Davis into the courtroom—he was in custody now— passing right by where Ragland was sitting. Davis looked at Ragland, stared him in the eye, but Davis didn’t seem to recognize him. He appeared to look right through him.
“He looked nervous,” says Ragland.
And sorry. But not sorry for shooting him, says Ragland, just sorry to have been caught and to be facing 40 years behind bars. Ragland’s guilt started to ease.
Prosecutor Nicole Siller called Ragland’s name.
Ragland walked to the bar of the court and stood just a few feet from Davis. And now Davis looked real nervous. Ragland wasn’t supposed to be there. He wasn’t supposed to testify. Ragland felt he could read Davis’ mind: Please tell him it wasn’t me so I can get out of here. Please just do this for me .
The prosecutor asked Ragland to point to the person who shot him.
Ragland pointed to Davis.
“I want you to tell the court exactly what happened that brings you here today,” the prosecutor said.
Ragland told his story. All of it. The shooting. The payoff. The false affidavit at the defense attorney’s office. He burned him. He told the truth, and he stared right at Davis as he talked.
And now Ragland hides—sleeping from place to place and walking the streets with his whole world in his backpack. A group of Muslim drug dealers Davis is connected to scare him the most.
“If anyone gets their hands on me, it’ll be them,” he says.
He meets with his parole officer regularly, not wanting to go back to jail, because, he says, it would be easier for somebody to kill him there.
The Commonwealth’s case against Davis is strong, says Prosecutor Jennifer Mitrick. Besides Ragland’s testimony there is ballistic evidence, and any jury will likely view the payoff as “admission of guilt.” (Police interviewed another witness they believe saw Davis shoot Ragland, but that person refused to cooperate.)
Davis’ new attorney, Daniel Santucci, says he hasn’t had time to review the case file since he just recently picked up the case. He says it’s “his client’s contention that Ragland is lying.”
After the trial, Ragland says he will leave Philadelphia. He has a place in mind—but won’t say where—and hopes his new surroundings will help him ditch his drug habit for good. He still uses crack, he says, but not as much as he did before the shooting.
“Just socially now,” he says.
Ragland says he made peace with his God that night he laid in the street near death and that he’s since made peace with what Davis did to him.
“I forgive him,” he says. “But he belongs in jail. He almost killed me.”
He has no regrets about stepping forward and says—even if he does pay with his life—he’s glad people will know his story.
“People should know how things are in the neighborhoods,” he says.
With that, Ragland politely excuses himself. He needs to go find a place to sleep for the night. ■