Crime

He’s accused of killing a toddler in Fresno. Judge to decide if he’ll stand trial

Fresno police booked Devin Ratliff, 30, in the 2016 shooting death of toddler Rashad Halford Jr.
Fresno police booked Devin Ratliff, 30, in the 2016 shooting death of toddler Rashad Halford Jr.

Keyona Chadman, her 20-month-old son, and several friends were hanging out outside a southeast Fresno apartment building during the summer of 2016 when a stranger with a gun changed their lives forever.

Police say that stranger, Devin Ratliff, 30, squeezed off about 10 rounds that night in the 3000 block of Platt Avenue.

Prosecutors allege one of those shots killed Chadman’s son, Rashad Halford Jr.

The baby’s father, Rashad Halford and another man, Willis Mucelroy were also wounded, but survived.

Ratliff was arrested two years later in Southern California. He now faces murder and attempted murder charges in Fresno County Superior Court.

His preliminary hearing began Thursday in Judge David Gottlieb’s courtroom. The judge will decide if there is enough evidence to hold him over for trial.

During Thursday’s hearing, Chadman provided tearful testimony about that June 21 night.

She remembers seeing a man wearing a dark hooded sweatshirt or coat, pacing about 20 feet away from where she and her baby were sitting.

It was dark, about 10:30 p.m., so she didn’t get a good look at him until he got closer.

Mucelroy, who was also there that night, testified he heard someone say “What’s up” and then chaos ensued.

“There was gunfire when I looked up and seen him,” he said. “It was Ratliff.”

As people ran for their lives, Mucelroy remembers hearing at least 10 gunshots. Chadman looked down at her baby and realized he wasn’t moving.

Then she saw blood. “My baby was shot,” she said.

She ran to the baby’s father for help, only to find he was also wounded. Feeling dazed, Chadman sat down on the cement stairs of the apartment building, waiting for paramedics.

Baby Rashad was taken to the hospital where he later died.

Defense attorney Ralph Torres pressed Chadman on whether she was certain his client was the shooter.

Torres challenged her description of his clothing, which she described at one point as a sweat shirt and later as pea coat. She also said the shooter’s pants were red, but also told police he was wearing jeans.

Although the motive for the killing still isn’t clear, police at the time said Ratliff was an associate of West Fresno gang members.

Prosecutor Deborah Miller addressed the gang issue by asking Mucelroy if was once in a gang. Mucelroy said he was, but is no longer active. He also said he’d never seen Ratliff before.

Mucelroy admitted to having a gun that night, but said it was slipped into his pocket after the shooting by Rashad Halford. They thought Ratliff might return.

Mucelroy didn’t tell police that night about the gun because he said he was scared. Mucelroy has a criminal past, buy said he was not on probation at the time.

The preliminary hearing is scheduled to continue Friday.

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