By Matt Zapotosky
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, May 4, 2010; B04
As neighborhood disputes go, the ones between Ronald Ragland Sr. and Robert D. Mitchell were pretty trivial, neighbors said.
Who could throw a bigger cookout? Whose lawn was in better shape? These were the kinds of concerns, neighbors said, that had the two men shouting across the street at each other from their Brandywine homes.
But who could have foreseen this?
On Sunday afternoon, the two men again got into a shouting match in their usually quiet neighborhood of single-family homes with spacious yards in southern Prince George's County, neighbors and police said. The dispute ended when Mitchell told Ragland, "Well, go ahead and do what you're gonna do," one neighbor said. About 20 minutes later -- when things seemed to have calmed down -- shots were fired, the neighbor said.
Ragland is accused of fatally shooting Mitchell, 53, and wounding his 18-year-old son, also named Robert. The son, who neighbors say attends Gwynn Park High School, was expected to survive, police said.
"They always went back and forth," said Shante Rice, 34, who lives down the street on Charm Court and heard and saw parts of the encounter. "For it to get that far like that, that was terrible."
Ragland, 54, was arrested Sunday and charged with first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder and related counts, court records show. Officer Henry Tippett, a county police spokesman, said the two neighbors had been having regular arguments for the "past couple years." He said he was not sure what sparked the argument that preceded the shooting.
"Apparently, they just didn't get along," Tippett said.
Rice said Ragland appeared to have gotten a gun from his vehicle and fired it at a vehicle in which Mitchell and his son were riding. She said that when emergency crews arrived, Ragland's vehicle was parked at the end of his driveway with its trunk and door open. Paramedics had to remove the senior Mitchell from his vehicle before performing CPR.
Rice said Ragland had run-ins with other neighbors. On one occasion, she said, Ragland asked her daughter why she was standing on a corner and then said, "Only hookers stand on the corner." Her daughter, Rice said, was waiting for a bus.
"He was kind of belligerent," Rice said.
Court records did not list a lawyer for Ragland, and family members could not be reached for comment. Neighbors said he lived with his wife.
A woman in Mitchell's driveway who identified herself as his daughter said he was an Army veteran who was receiving disability payments. She declined to give her name or comment further. "We're all just trying to deal with it all," she said.
Bonnie Davis, 50, who knew both men, said Ragland, a retired general contractor, commonly criticized others in the neighborhood for landscaping issues, and she said he was sometimes provoked by Mitchell's son, who she said would swear at him. The real problem, she said, was that when Mitchell and Ragland argued, neither was willing to back down.
"Both of them had to have the last word," she said. "It's just sad."
Mitchell's death capped a weekend of violence in the region. In less than 24 hours, 12 people were shot, three fatally, in nine incidents in the District and its Maryland suburbs.