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Brandy Ratliff, Jr. was killed in a drive-by shooting while sitting on a couch inside his cousin’s home at 1608 E. Capitol Ave. in Des Moines on Sunday, October 19, 2008.
Jesus Garcia, 35, and his nephew, Alfredo Garcia, 13, were arrested and charged with first-degree murder shortly after the shooting, but police later determined witnesses lied to them and charges were dropped.
Friends of Ratliff, 31, said he was in the wrong place at the wrong time that early Sunday morning when several shots were fired into the residence shortly after 4 a.m.
Ratliff’s fiancée, Parris Swafford, 29, said Ratliff was in the living room with his cousin, Jermaine Hargrove, and at least two others when a bullet came through the window behind Ratliff and hit him in the back. He died en route to Mercy Medical Center. The bullet came through a window that had been covered with plastic after being blown out with a shotgun blast nine days earlier, police reports show.
Investigators have so far been unable to connect the previous incident with Ratliff’s death, but police Maj. Craig Zubrod said the person who allegedly fired the shotgun at the house on Oct. 10, Gary Dean White Jr., 17, was a “person of interest” in the case. But, Zubrod acknowledged, “so are a lot of people.” White was charged with intimidation with a weapon.
A separate report shows the teen, of 1819 Logan Ave., was beaten and left naked in an alley in the 1700 block of East Walnut Street about 12 hours after the Oct. 10 shotgun incident. He told police some of his half-dozen assailants lived at the Capitol Avenue address, where Zubrod said the occupants “were terrorizing a lot of people.”
Swafford believes the bullet was meant for Hargrove, who lived in the home at the time of the shooting. It had something to do with a vehicle being broken into, and he was out for revenge on his cousin, Swafford said.
Swafford, who described Ratliff as religious, likeable and loving, said Ratliff was at the home to play video games and spend time with friends, and wasn’t there to cause trouble. He was so into God and wasn’t a gang banger nor into drugs, she said.
Ratliff, a father of five, had moved to Des Moines from Boydton, Va., seven years earlier and Swafford said Hargrove was his only relative in the Des Moines area.
Police had been called to the E. Capitol Ave. address more than a dozen times since Dec. 27 for incidents ranging from drugs, theft and vandalism to a fight in the street, including violence that broke out the night of the slaying. According to police, an unidentified young woman was beaten at the address Sunday night, but she refused to file a police report or even give her name. The final call came that Sunday when a caller reported Ratliff had been shot.
Des Moines Police Capt. Steve Waymire was in the area after the shooting and saw two suspicious men walking nearby, who fled when confronted. Waymire was able to capture one immediately and found the other a short time later. Jesus Garcia, 35, and Alfredo Garcia, a student at Hiatt Middle School, were interviewed, arrested and then charged with first-degree murder.
On Wednesday, October 22, the murder charges against the Garcias were dropped because witnesses lied about what they knew, a police spokesperson said.
Swafford said Ratliff did not know the Garcias but was aware that they “were trouble with Jermaine.”
Swafford and Ratliff had lived together in the 1400 block of East 36th Street until a month before the shooting when he moved in with friends. He worked at Kentucky Fried Chicken on Merle Hay Road until two months before his death, and also played keyboards at church, Swafford said.
On May 2, 2009, the Des Moines Police Department increased the reward for information about Ratliff’s slaying along with that of Hazel Reimann, 87. Reimann was found beaten and stabbed in her 131 SE Watrous Ave. home on Sept. 2, 2008. No arrests have been made in the eight months following her murder.
The Des Moines Police Department added $1,000 to the reward fund in each investigation, doubling the amount previously set up by Crime Stoppers.
There are currently no official suspects, and without additional information, the case is basically on hold, said Des Moines Police Sgt. Vince Valdez.
Today, the house where Ratliff was shot is vacant and boarded up.
Brandy Ratliff, Jr., was born in Halifax County, VA, on February 14, 1977, to the late Brandy Ratliff, Sr. and Alveria Townes. He received his education in the Mecklenburg County Public Schools and was a member of New Saint Douglas Baptist Church, Boydton, VA.
He is survived by his five children, Eboni, Tajayla, Trevell, Jahmahl Ratliff and Zakia Hatcher; his mother, Alveria Hawkins of Skipwith, VA, stepfather William Hawkins Sr. of Skipwith, VA; one sister, Tanisha Hawkins, paternal grandparents, Cleveland and Rebecca Ratliff of Boydton, VA, and a vast number of other relatives and friends.
Funeral services for Ratliff were conducted October 26, 2008 at New Saint Douglas Baptist Church, Boydton, VA, with burial following in the church cemetery.
Anyone with information about Brandy Ratliff’s unsolved murder is asked to call the Des Moines Police Department at 515-283-4869 or the Polk County Crime Stoppers at 515-223-1400.