After hours of questioning, Miami-Dade homicide detectives late Tuesday charged a suspect with the brazen murder of a fifth-grader shot to death during a robbery at his parents’ North Miami-Dade nail salon.
Anthawn Ragan, who turned 19 on Tuesday, is being held without bond on charges of first-degree murder, attempted murder, armed robbery and battery on a police officer. An accomplice has not been identified and police say they will release more information at an 8 a.m. briefing Wednesday at Miami-Dade police headquarters.
A tip led police to Ragan Tuesday, just hours after the heartbroken family of Aaron Vu pleaded for the public’s help in finding the two men who stormed into the Honk Kong Nail salon around 7:30 p.m. Friday, robbed the business and customers, then opened fire as they fled the salon at 14832 NW Seventh Ave., fatally wounding the boy and hitting his father.
Clients with children were inside, along with nail technicians. Surveillance video shows the two men snatching items from customers and workers, and firing bullets as they left. The tape captured a clear picture of one man’s face. That was Ragan, police said.
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The other had his face covered by a red shirt.
Police blanketed the neighborhood with the pictures. To entice tips from the public, Miami-Dade Crime Stoppers upped the reward from $3,000 to $25,000 for information leading to the gunmen.
On Tuesday, police had their first suspect. At 3:40 a.m., they went to the home of Ragan’s sister, at 737 NW 53rd St. where the suspect was hiding. The arresting officer said a tipster directed him to a door along the eastern wall of the duplex. The officer peered in and saw the suspect sitting on a sofa.
“I observed the defendant sitting on the couch inside the residence,’’ according to the report. “He stood up and ran toward a back bedroom.”
Ragan jumped on the bed and tried hide under some covers. As officers tried to cuff him, he ran and was tackled to the floor in a hallway. He fell, face first, according to the report. Officers said he had to be struck in the rib cage before he surrendered.
“I give up,” Ragan stated, according to the report. He also was charged with battery on a law enforcement officer.
Miami-Dade criminal court records show Ragan was arrested in May of 2012 on an armed robbery charge, he was recommended to be diverted into the Miami-Dade Boot Camp program, but prosecutors eventually dropped the case against him because a victim stopped cooperating. Ragan is also said to be a suspect in a recent Dollar Store robbery near the nail salon.
With his arrest Tuesday, police released more details about how the boy was killed during the robbery. As the suspects were leaving the nail salon with about $300 in cash and belongings, surveillance video shows Ragan turn back and fire two shots into the interior of the salon. One of those bullets struck the boy in the thigh, likely damaging a vital artery; the second bullet struck the boy’s father in the left shoulder. The boy was rushed the hospital, where he died.
Hours before Ragan was charged at 10 p.m. and led in a white jumpsuit to jail, the dead boy’s father, Hai NamVu, in a wheelchair and his arm in a sling at Jackson Memorial Hospital, thanked the community, his family and the police for their support while he recovered from a bullet wound in the same shooting that killed his son. He knew Miami-Dade police were questioning a person of interest in the case.
Vu struggled to understand why his young son had to die such a violent death.
“The question I ask every night since I was in the hospital is why,” he said, with his tearful wife Lynn Ma by his side. “Why did this happen? Why couldn’t this be me? They killed an innocent child.”
“We hope my son’s death will not be in vain,” he said as his wife held a picture of Aaron, a fun-loving kid, who loved to dance to Michael Jackson songs, draw and take care of his siblings. “That something will come out of this in the future that will greatly reduce senseless acts of violence in our community.”
Police urge the community to continue to pass along tips to CrimeStoppers with any information leading to the whereabouts of the other suspects involved in the robbery.