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Thursday, 5 June 2008

LaAunzae was a Vice Lord, and Donald Ragland was a Gangster Disciple

06:53 |

2005 execution-style murder in Frayser was a case marked by "gangs, guns and death."
And not incidentally, they added, there was an element of revenge when defendant Donald Ragland Jr. shot 26-year-old LaAunzae Grady three times in the back on a cold December afternoon outside of St. Elmo's Market."He didn't have a problem taking this job, because LaAunzae had killed his brother five or six years before this," gang unit prosecutor Ray Lepone told a Criminal Court jury. "LaAunzae was a Vice Lord, and Donald Ragland was a Gangster Disciple."Asst. Public Defender Trent Hall said prosecutors would not be able to prove their case and asked jurors to acquit Ragland, 27, of first-degree murder.On Wednesday, jurors watched a surveillance video from the store that showed an apparently nervous Grady looking out the front door of the store several times before finally leaving.A half-dozen loud gunshots then quickly follow, though the shooting on the outside parking lot is not captured by the indoor cameras.The first officer to the scene, Patrolman James Watts, said Grady was on his back near the front door, barely breathing and surrounded by seven shell casings from a 9mm pistol.In May 1999, Grady was involved in the shooting death of Ragland's brother, Eric Ragland, 16, at 3842 Schoolfield in Frayser. Grady was convicted of manslaughter and served a short prison sentence.
Grady's death in 2005 got national exposure on the A&E network reality crime program "The First 48."As episode 40, it was simply titled "Unmasked."Witnesses in the case said they noticed a man standing outside the market wearing a ski mask and a long overcoat, and with his hands in his pockets.Police say the masked man was Ragland, who was arrested Dec. 12, 2005, three days after the shooting.Several prospective jurors for the trial were excused earlier this week after they acknowledged they had seen the episode.Last month Memphis Police Director Larry Godwin said the department would not renew its contract with "The First 48" after several City Council members complained that the popular program made the city look dangerous.

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