Shooter Cleared Of Murder

Posted: July 06, 2000

Jerry Armstrong, 23, ignored a stay-away court order and went to visit his former paramour on Jan. 8, 1999.

It was a fatal mistake.

Once inside the home on Reno Street near 43rd, Armstrong confronted the woman's new boyfriend and hit him on the head with a gun, said public defenders Marc A. Bookman and Karl D. Schwartz.

Nathaniel Ragsdale, who was in another room, heard a shot, then a commotion, and rushed in brandishing a gun, said Assistant District Attorney Yvonne Ruiz.

Ragsdale, 22, of Hazel Avenue near 49th Street, said he saw Armstrong, of Marlowe Street near Pratt, standing over his fallen friend, shouting, "Are you ready to die?"

So he shot Armstrong twice, killing him.

Ruiz disputed that story.

Yesterday, after Bookman and Schwartz argued that Ragsdale should not be convicted of murder, Common Pleas Judge Jane Cutler Greenspan agreed. She cleared him of murder charges.

But Greenspan didn't let Ragsdale completely off the hook.

She convicted the electronics assembler of voluntary manslaughter and committed him to prison in lieu of $400,000 bail to await sentencing.

Bookman said that after a gunshot rang out, Armstrong was making threats in the house. Bookman asked the judge, "What else was Mr. Ragsdale supposed to do?" when he saw his friend threatened with death.

"He acted consistently with good character in this case," said Bookman.

"He did what he should have done. Nate Ragsdale did not do anything differently than a reasonable person would have done, and should have done under those circumstances."

But Ruiz, noting that Ragsdale had shot Armstrong in the back, asked for "at least" a third-degree murder conviction.

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