Lawrence Ramdass was snug in his happy place, tossing a fishing net into the muddy water and surrounded by family, when bullets started ripping his way.
The 46-year-old South Floridian was in a boat with his uncle and a friend, drifting down a sawgrass-fringed canal in the Everglades on the western edge of Palm Beach County. Ramdass loved it out there, two miles from the nearest busy road. He loved it even when the catfish weren’t biting. He just enjoyed the camaraderie.
Then, on a Wednesday afternoon last July, gunfire tore open the weekday quiet.
Fifteen or so shots arrived in less than a minute. Both his uncle and friend flopped into the water for cover, the Sun Sentinel reported. Ramdass, however, remained in the craft. A .45-caliber slug drilled into his chest. He lived long enough to motor the boat back to land, then died before paramedics arrived.
For months, law enforcement puzzled over what happened in the remote corner of the Holey Land Wildlife Management Area. Was Ramdass ambushed in an attack? But who would want kill a friendly guy devoted to his large extended family? Or was the shooting an accident? A hunter illegally roaming offseason?
Initially it wasn’t even clear where the gunfire had originated.
“Whosoever did this to my brother would have the decency to come forward and admit it because I don’t feel it was an accident,” Sandy Stallone, Ramdass’s distraught sister, told CBS Miami in July. “A stray bullet don’t just hit somebody sitting in a boat.”
No one admitted to the shooting. But after three months of digging, on Tuesday the Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office announced they had solved Ramdass’s death. The answer, however, has intensified the family’s grief.
Investigators initially believed Ramdass, of Plantation, Fla., was probably accidentally shot, authorities explained to Local 10. The evidence supporting that theory was crunching beneath the shoes of anyone who walked through the area.
The Sun Sentinel reported a nearby levee is a popular illegal firing range; shooters unload their weapons into the canal bank. Spent .45 caliber and 9mm shell casings litter the ground. Bullet holes pock most of the signage.
Suspected shooters were spotted in the area the day Ramdass was killed.
On Tuesday, the Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office said a state wildlife officer had seen two suspicious men near the canal on the day of the shooting. He pulled their vehicle over and began questioning them about why they were there. The men said they had fireworks, but no guns. The interview, however, was cut short because the officer was called away to assist with an emergency — Ramdass’s death.
The wildlife officer recounted these details to Palm Beach County investigators. A sketch artist worked up a rendering of the men. Detectives also reportedly discovered “fresh evidence” at the scene. They were able to lift a fingerprint.
A match on the fingerprint brought investigators to Ricardo Galvan. Yes, he admitted to police, he had been shooting at targets that day, with a buddy named Christian Salcedo. The men, however, had been about a third of a mile away from where Ramdass was hit.
“Both males were cooperative and advised that they both shot multiple guns that day, handing them back and forth,” Palm Beach Sheriff spokeswoman Teri Barbera told the Sun Sentinel. “They both shot Galvan’s .45-caliber gun throughout the afternoon.”
When ballistics compared Galvan’s gun with the bullet that fatally hit Ramdass, they matched.
Investigators determined neither men could see beyond the raised bank and vegetation. They did not realize Ramdass was in the line of fire. Detectives also could not prove conclusively who fired the fatal shot. “The victim’s position was concealed from the target range,” Barbara said. “Investigators found no criminal intent and this appears to be a tragic accident.”
Investigators met with the Palm Beach County State Attorney’s Office and determined there was no probable cause for an arrest or criminal charges. Neither Galvan nor Salcedo immediately responded to a Facebook message for comment.
The Ramdass family is upset that the shooters won’t be punished.
“There are signs out there saying it’s illegal to shoot,” Stallone told the Sun Sentinel. “Anyone that fires a weapon, you’re responsible for your actions, accident or no accident. I’m disappointed with our system.”
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