Today is the fifth anniversary of the murder of Gordon T. Ragland. He was murdered on May 23, 2011 by a man who was never prosecuted for what he did, nor was he ever identified to the public. The fact that he was never identified represents a failure of journalistic duty on the part of all the local newspapers and TV and radio stations. Yes, a grand jury failed to prosecute the murderer – they ruled his crime a justifiable homicide – but that was a grave mistake on their part. It certainly doesn’t justify the media’s failure to do their job.
Let’s look at the facts in this case and you can decide for yourself. On the night of the murder, Ragland had broken into his girlfriend’s house in the 13800 block of Buck Rub Drive in the Deer Run subdivision of Chesterfield County, Virginia. However, after confiscating her cell phone, Ragland was preparing to leave to the scene and had already made it out to the road. That’s when the murderer, who lived a few doors down from Ragland’s girlfriend, entered the picture. He grabbed his gun, followed Ragland out to the road, and confronted him.
Then he claimed that Ragland, who was unarmed, made gestures that put him in fear of his life, so he shot him. I don’t care what that grand jury might have concluded, there are some big problems with the murderer’s claim that he shot Ragland in self-defense. The shooter – not Ragland – was the aggressor. He pursued Ragland, not the other way around, although he claimed Ragland started moving toward him, once he confronted him. Besides, Ragland no longer posed a threat to anyone at the time he was confronted by the murderer. Had he still been in the girlfriend’s at the time, it would have been a different story.
Fact – The murderer should never have confronted Ragland in the first place. Instead, he should have called the police and reported Ragland’s crime, along with a description of Ragland and his vehicle.
Fact – He should have remained in his home. But since he decided to go out to the road, he should have left his gun behind. And if he absolutely had to bring his gun, he should have made sure it was not loaded.
Fact – Once Ragland, who may have been drunk at the time, became belligerent (as the shooter claimed) and began moving toward him, he could easily have run back into his house to gain safety.
Fact – Ragland was unarmed, so there was never any need to use deadly force against him. The murderer claims he mistakenly thought the cellphone that Ragland had in his hand might have been a weapon, but thinking is not good enough. You are supposed to know before you shoot. The incident occurred in broad daylight, so he should have easily been able to distinguish the cell phone in Ragland’s hand from a weapon.
Fact – If he really was convinced that Ragland was a threat that he could not escape without the use of a gun, he could have fired a warning shot first.
Fact – When he shot Ragland, he could have aimed for one of his feet or hands, which would have just wounded him instead of killing him.
Clearly, the violence could have been avoided if the girlfriend hadn’t had neighbor who was a gun-toting hot-head and would-be hero. This guy was obviously looking for a confrontation and an excuse to shoot someone. Had I been on that grand jury, I would have voted to charge him with murder. And I would have told the other members just what I thought of their decision – the term “scummy low-life” comes to mind. That murderer should be in prison right now, but is instead walking the streets as a free man. And, to add insult to injury, he doesn’t have to worry about harassment because only a very small number of people know his identity. Who knows when he will strike again? And when will we ever find justice for Gordon T. Ragland? Five years out, we still haven’t. But remember – no justice, no peace.