HOLMBERG: Recent murders and robberies the beginning of a cycle of violence?

Posted at 12:07 AM, Oct 09, 2012

RICHMOND, Va (WTVR)- Richmond’s 36th homicide of the year was another troubling one.

Right downtown, in the heart of the city – historic Jackson Ward -  on a night of revelry. The Second Street Festival was winding down just a few blocks away.

The victim was attending his close-friend’s 25th birthday party in the 300 block of W. Grace Street.

The perpetrators: Allegedly a group of four young men who had crashed the party.

Nathan Ratigan, 24, died shortly after being shot in the chest by one of the party crashers who had already been in the house and, allegedly, had stole a computer.

Ratigan and several others at the party had asked the strangers to leave, said the young man whose birthday was being celebrated when his close friend was shot a little after midnight early Sunday.

A neighbor’s door window was blown out as the shooter sprayed the porch area as they fled.

It’s a wonder partygoers trying to drag Ratigan inside weren’t hit.

And so ended the life of a self-employed, fun-loving young man from Mechanicsville who spent a lot of time visiting the W. Marshall Street house. He and his scooter were well-known in the area.

According to Richmond police, the four suspects were black males in their 20s, one wearing an orange polo shirt and gold necklace and another in a blue polo shirt and a third in a grey polo. The fourth wore a plaid shirt.

Detectives and faith leaders canvassed the neighborhood this evening, trying to soothe frayed nerves and gather information. Major Steve Drew with the Richmond Police Department’s Major Crimes Unit said they have some leads, but they need help solving the homicide.

One neighbor said the tragedy also killed his property values.

Another nearby resident said the neighborhood has been sliding since two summers ago, when a Hanover youth was killed by a stray bullet while driving north on Belvidere.

She has been trying to sell her house, but shootings in the neighborhood this summer convinced her to give up for now.

Recent robberies and shootings in the area, including gunfire at Regency Mall Monday, have many wondering if we’re heading towards a deadly cycle like the one that plagued Richmond 20 years ago.

Last week Richmond Mayor Dwight Jones said we’re seeing a cycle of violence committed by criminals the police have caught and judges have locked up, but many are getting out and returning to their violent ways.

But many of the recent violent crimes are being committed by criminals in their teens and 20s. Could some of them be the children of those killed or locked up during the crack-cocaine 90s?

Captain Drew said the statistics don’t point to a beginning surge in violence like the city saw in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. The relationship police have with the communities is also vastly better, he said, which is why a much higher percentage of violent crimes are being solved.

Ratigan’s death was the 36th homicide of the year. In 1994 – likely the city’s deadliest year since the Civil War - there had been 127 homicides in Richmond by the end of the first week in October.