'The wrong bullet for the wrong person'

'The wrong bullet for the wrong person'

March 8th, 2011 by Beth Burger in News

Ronald L. Blackmon Jr.

The bullet that shattered a 25-year-old man's head was not intended for him, and he never saw it coming.

Ronald L. Blackmon Jr. did not see a gunman stop on Friday, pull out a gun from inside a black and gray vehicle, and fire several shots, planting a bullet in the back of his head.

"They didn't even see his face. He walked out of his room to go visit a girlfriend and the next thing I hear, he's at Erlanger," said Sadie Underwood, Blackmon's grandmother, who mourned Monday at her home on Hawthorne Street, with family members visiting throughout the day.

Blackmon died the next day, becoming Chattanooga's fourth homicide victim of 2011.

Blackmon, who had a criminal history including convictions of burglary and robbery, was not in a gang, family members and friends insisted.

"He wasn't in a gang. He had his troubles, but he wasn't in a gang," said Jamaal Ashley, a friend of Blackmon's who witnessed the shooting.

Police say otherwise.

Chattanooga Crime Suppression Unit Sgt. Todd Royval said the two men in custody who are charged in Blackmon's death as well as Blackmon all had ties to gangs. All three men are entered in the city's gang database, he said.

Edward L. Ryals, 18, and Demetrius Bibbs, 18, were arrested just hours after the shooting. Ryals faces a charge of attempted first-degree murder and aggravated assault. Bibbs faces two counts of accessory after the fact.

Blackmon died Saturday, the day after the shooting, so the charges are expected to be upgraded, police said.

Bibbs and Ryals are scheduled to go to court Thursday.

A 19-year-old was also questioned but not charged in connection with the shooting.

Ryals told detectives that he shot and killed Blackmon because he thought he was someone else - someone named Lil' Rob - who shot at him Thursday night, according to an arrest report.

The gun used in Blackmon's slaying has not been found.

Royval said the homicide was the result of a continuation from a dispute Thursday night when police received a call of shots fired.

Less than 24 hours later, the scene of the shooting unfolded in chaos just before 2 p.m. Friday. A stain from Blackmon's pouring blood marred the sidewalk where he stood, planning to catch a ride. Police blocked off the corner of the street to collect evidence and conduct interviews.

Small children were greeted by the grim scene after school let out and they made their way home. Parents clutched their children close as they sat on their porches, watching police work.

Ashley shook his head in disbelief. He was standing next to Blackmon when the shots rang out.

"They just pulled up and started shooting for no reason," he said Friday, a few minutes after the shooting. Pacing back and forth, Ashley said he was still in shock.

Blackmon leaves behind a 1-year-old son. The day he was shot, Blackmon was trying to get a ride to one of his father's stores, River City Mart, where he worked, Underwood said.

"He was an easygoing guy that everyone liked," she said. "He didn't bother nobody. He was in no fight or no gang. He wasn't a violent person at all.

"They got the wrong bullet for the wrong person. They shot him in the back of the head. ... The Lord works in mysterious ways. I don't know why he had to go like that."

A second shooting took place eight hours after Blackmon was gunned down.

In Woodlawn Apartments at 2300 Wilson St., a 3-year-old boy was shot in the leg and 20-year-old Prandell Haynes was shot in the left hand.

According to reports, a gunman approached the apartment on foot and fired about five rounds through a window. Both victims were treated for non-life threatening injuries, police said.

A third shooting took place Sunday when 22-year-old Darrell Paris was shot in the stomach with a 16-gauge sawed-off shotgun at 1329 Cypress Street Court. The injuries were not life-threatening, police said.

Contact staff writer Beth Burger at bburger@timesfree press.com or 423-757-6406.