Criminal justice

Alleged killer of boy at N. Dade nail salon embarked on violent spree, cops say

 

dovalle@MiamiHerald.com

Anthawn Ragan Jr., namesake of a father doing life in prison for murder, was just 13 when he was first arrested for hitting a school employee.

For the next five years, Ragan’s frequent arrests — including two for robberies — did not keep him off the streets. And in recent months, authorities say, he and his pals embarked on a wave of violence.

Ragan, 19, already jailed on murder charges for shooting 10-year-old Aaron Vu last month while robbing a nail salon just outside North Miami, was hit with another murder charge on Thursday — the execution-style slaying of a man outside a motel in the city, also last month. He’s also charged with holding up a Liberty City convenience store and a North Miami hamburger joint in the last two months.

“He and his buddies were on a crime spree,’’ said North Miami Police Maj. Neal Cuevas. “He’s ruthless. He’s dangerous and obviously, he’s a cold-blooded killer with no regard for human life.”

Law enforcement officers expect more charges to be filed against Ragan as investigators compare cases and continue a manhunt for his cohorts.

Ragan, records show, is no stranger to the criminal justice system, which missed some opportunities to put him behind bars.

The most glaring: prosecutors in July had to drop a 2012 armed robbery charge when the victim stopped cooperating and a judge refused to grant a continuance.

“I really don’t care,” the victim, Fatima Sandoval, told The Miami Herald on Thursday. “They never returned the money he stole from me. I work ... I’m not going to go waste my time.”

At the same time, Miami-Dade prosecutors also dropped a separate firearm possession charge because Ragan’s buddies — who initially told police that Ragan possessed a pistol during a traffic stop — also refused to cooperate.

“Without the testimony of the two other occupants of the vehicle, who could not be located, we could not prove our case beyond a reasonable doubt,” said Ed Griffith, a State Attorney’s spokesman.

Ragan and a sister were born in Miami in November 1994.

At that point, their father, Anthawn Ragan Sr., was already in jail awaiting trial for murder. The elder Ragan had been a talented, aspiring boxer whose career ended when a friend shot him in the arm with a shotgun after an argument, recalled Tony Moss, his former lawyer.

Authorities said months later, Ragan Sr., in an act of payback, shot and killed the man coming out of a Liberty City store.

Ragan Sr. wound up representing himself, taking the stand in his own defense and losing at trial. He is doing life in prison. “The kid never knew his father on the outside,” Moss said.

It wasn’t until 2005, in fact, that the elder Ragan even acknowledged fathering the twins, only after their mother filed a paternity suit against him.

His mother, Octavia Rauls, is also in prison — six months for defrauding the federal government of social security funds.

As a juvenile, Junior racked up at least eight misdemeanor and felony arrests. Most of the minor cases wound up being dropped, including battery on a school official, marijuana possession and petty theft.

Because most juvenile records are not public record, it is unclear if Ragan ever entered any rehabilitation programs.

In a February letter, Rauls told a judge that she was out of money because she had spent everything trying to take care of her son, who had been diagnosed with a “mental disorder.” Ragan had been in six schools since the age of five, she said, but was constantly in trouble.

Ragan spent more than two years in various rehabilitation programs upstate, she told the judge, frequenty getting into trouble there. “I always used every dime to provide support for him at all times,” Ragan wrote.

He was convicted for a robbery during an attempted carjacking in Miramar in December 2008.

According to police reports, Ragan and another young man had stolen a car in Miami Gardens when cops chased them into Broward County. The two ditched the car, escaping on foot, before trying to steal a car to get back to Miami-Dade. They boldly hopped into the backseat of the car of a Miramar woman, whose 10-year-old daughter was also in the back.

“Get the f**k out of the car,” Ragan growled, according to police.

But the woman snatched the keys from the ignition. Ragan grabbed her purse, dislocating the woman’s pinky. An officer later found him in the bushes, where he resisted handcuffing. Ragan was convicted, but records don’t detail the extent of his sentence.

By April 2012, he was arrested again. This time, police said, he forced Fatima Sandoval to the ground outside her Miami Gardens home, at gunpoint. Sandoval identified him in a photo lineup.

Ragan was arrested days later in a traffic stop after a foot chase. His defense lawyer, Louis Martinez, recalled: “He seemed like a really nice kid, always respectful when I met with him. His mom was involved actively in his life. She was always in court.”

Ragan was evaluated for entrance into Miami-Dade corrections department’s boot camp, a strict program for young offenders. However, according to court records, he failed a psychological evaluation.

His entrance to the boot camp became moot when Sandoval stopped cooperating. Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Dennis Murphy refused to issue any more delays.

In the most recent case, detectives say Ragan and another man burst into Hong Kong Nails and robbed customers at gunpoint. As they left, Ragan fired off two shots, striking Aaron in the thigh and wounding his father.

Miami-Dade police launched a massive manhunt after the boy’s death. Three witnesses identified Ragan, whose face was uncovered during the robbery, according to police. The other robber remains at large.

When he was arrested, police also charged Ragan with armed robbery and grand theft for the Nov. 9 robbery of Arnold’s Royal Castle, 12490 NW Seventh Ave., and with battering a cop after trying to wrestle his way out of his arrest.

On Thursday, his rap sheet grew. North Miami police charged him with first-degree murder for the Nov. 1 slaying of Luis Perez, 21, outside the Motel 7 on the 13400 block of Northwest Seventh Avenue.

“F**k, we’re here for you!” Ragan allegedly yelled out to Perez before shooting him dead on an upper walkway at the motel. One of Ragan’s cohorts also shot Perez as he lay on the walkway, according to an arrest report.

Police did not detail a possible motive. Detectives are looking for two other men and a four-door Nissan Maxima used to escape the shooting scene.

City of Miami detectives also charged Ragan with the Oct. 23 armed robbery of a Liberty City market.

According to an arrest report, he and two other gun-toting robbers forced employees to the ground. “This is not a joke, give the money!” they allegedly yelled. The robbers took off with cash from the register.

As for the victims, Aaron Vu’s father, Hai Nam Vu, was released from the hospital Wednesday night – two days after the fifth-grader at Northwest Christian Academy in Miami was buried.

The father’s aunt, Thi Pham, said when the family heard the news that Ragan had been implicated in an earlier murder they were "shocked but not surprised."

“How many more are there that we don’t know about," she said. “How many families has he hurt? The way we see it this man is not even a human being. He has no respect for another human's life.

“We are just so thankful that he can't hurt anymore people," she said.

Read more Miami-Dade stories from the Miami Herald

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