Deshaun Malik Rushing was sentenced to 30 years in prison Monday for the slaying of a 2-year-old Little Rock girl in a drive-by shooting that shocked Little Rock with a deadly reminder of its gang culture.
Rushing, 22, avoided a life sentence for the death of Ramiya Reed by pleading guilty to first-degree murder, reduced from capital murder, in exchange for the sentence that will keep him locked up at least 21 years.
Identified by the girl's mother as a suspect, Rushing was further implicated in the toddler's November 2016 slaying by bullet casings detectives found at the scene, prosecutors said Monday.
Ramiya was killed two days before Thanksgiving. Not even a month later, a 3-year-old boy was shot dead in a road-rage incident in a neighborhood about 7 miles away from where the girl had been shot.
Acen King was killed about two weeks before Christmas by someone firing into the car driven by his grandmother. His infant sister sitting next to him was unharmed. Police said the gunman was a convicted sex offender and robber who claimed the shooting was an accident.
Ramiya's violent death brought public attention to ongoing violence between Real Hustlers Incorporated, a Bloods-affiliate formerly known as the Monroe Street Hustlers, and the Wolfe Street Crips. Those gangs have roots more than 25 years deep in Little Rock's southwest neighborhoods.
Police said Rushing and his co-defendant, Larry James Jackson Jr., are Monroe Street members.
Detectives were told that Rushing was seeking revenge against the female driver of the car Ramiya was in because one of the woman's sons, a member of a rival gang, had shot up the home of Rushing's mother. The day before Ramiya was killed, someone had shot into the car the son was driving, but the family did not tell authorities. They did replace the windshield.
The gang-related violence has included another high-profile slaying. Shirley Ann Jackson -- a 60-year-old grandmother of 12, running a day care service with nine children in her home -- was killed last April by a bullet that police said was meant for Rushing, who was also wounded.
Authorities said last summer's shooting at the downtown Little Rock nightclub Power Ultra Lounge was part of the gang feud. No one was killed, but more than two dozen people were injured, leaving at least one partially paralyzed.
Police say a Little Rock man now in custody started the shooting, but the Memphis musician who was performing at the club and two of his bodyguards have also been charged, accused of firing guns. The incident is still being investigated, as evidenced by the most recent arrest last week.
Federal authorities have pumped more resources into the city through the Violence Reduction Network, a Justice Department initiative, and at least two federal investigations have indicted 100 people over the past year on charges that include gun possession and drug trafficking.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson also convened a multi-agency task force to coordinate efforts at suppressing the city's gang activity.
Ramiya, sitting in her mother's lap, was one of five children riding in a car on South Harrison Street being driven by an adult cousin when someone in another car opened fire.
The family car drove through the bullets to reach a relative's home on Van Buren Street where it was realized that Ramiya, the only one hit, had been shot in the stomach. A relative drove the child and mother to the hospital. Ramiya died about 35 minutes after she was shot.
No one in the area -- the corner of 20th and Harris streets -- saw what happened, police said. The investigation appeared to stall despite a city-funded reward that grew from $10,000 to $50,000 over the next six months.
But last May, Ramiya's mother, Rokiya Williams, 28, went to police and said she knew the street names of the men responsible for the shooting and that she could identify them. She told investigators she had been told who was behind the shooting a couple of months after her daughter was killed, but had been too worried about the safety of her family to come forward sooner. Larry Jackson and Rushing were arrested a few days later.
The men were already known to authorities. Tipsters had directed police to be looking for someone named SP, who turned out to be Rushing, who wanted to avenge the shooting at his mother's house. Police confirmed his nickname through his Facebook page, police reports show.
Tipsters also told police that "Kodak Larry" was involved. Questioned about three months later, Jackson confirmed that both he and Rushing were gang members and said they were feuding with one of Ramiya's cousins over two shooting attempts, one involving Jackson's sister and the other Rushing's mother.
The night the girl was killed, Jackson said, Rushing called and told him he had "messed up" and done something he could not take back. A day or two later, Rushing told him he had shot the girl, Jackson told police.
The capital-murder case against Jackson is on hold while he appeals a court order requiring he be prosecuted as an adult in the girl's death.
Jackson was 17 when the girl was killed. Both men are in the Pulaski County jail.
At Monday's plea hearing, chief deputy prosecutor John Johnson told Circuit Judge Barry Sims that police had been able to match the 9 mm shell casings found where Ramiya was shot to the casings collected at the scene of a shooting attempt a week earlier.
Rushing's fingerprints had been found on the shell casings from that first incident at West 16th and South Tyler streets, less than a half-mile from where Ramiya was killed. No one was injured, but a house and three cars were struck by bullets.
The hearing lasted about six minutes. Rushing appeared animated and engaged while consulting with his lawyer Ron Davis as they waited to be called before the judge.
But standing before Sims, next to his other lawyer, Jack Kearney, Rushing kept his eyes down.
Questioning Rushing about his intentions to plead guilty and whether he understood his rights, Sims had to tell the defendant to speak up after he'd only nodded in response.
"I need you to say yes or no on each question," the judge said.
Rushing, his eyes half-closed, answered audibly each time, but when Sims asked if he was guilty of murder, the defendant paused for several seconds, rolling his head from side to side.
"Why are you shaking your head?" Sims asked. "Are you guilty of this?"
"Yes," Rushing responded.
Rushing, who will be 42 when he first qualifies for parole, still has other charges to resolve in the coming days. None of them will add any more prison time to his sentence, prosecutors said.
He was already facing charges of fleeing, theft by receiving and aggravated assault on a police officer when he was arrested in Ramiya's killing.
Rushing rammed two Little Rock patrol cars in February 2017 that were trying to pull him over for driving a stolen car, police said. Rushing wrecked the vehicle he was driving and tried to run but was chased down by officers, authorities said. He dropped a stolen gun during the foot pursuit, according to police reports.
When police booked him into jail on the murder charges, jailers found a small bag holding about a fifth of an ounce of marijuana in his buttocks, which resulted in an additional felony charge of possessing prohibited items. Another count was added after the September discovery of a handmade "shank" in his cell.
An April 2016 arrest with cocaine and marijuana netted him felony drug trafficking convictions in September 2016 with six years on probation.
Rushing was warned against a life of crime in July 2013, when he was 17.
He had been charged as an adult with aggravated robbery, but Circuit Judge Leon Johnson agreed to transfer the case to juvenile court after hearing testimony that Rushing was getting good grades in school, including algebra.
Police described Rushing as remorseful about his role, acting as a look-out for a man robbing ATM customers.
After hearing officers testify that the man had gotten the money from the holdup and refused to share it with Rushing, the judge advised him to make the most of the rehabilitation opportunities the juvenile justice system could provide.
"I hope you take advantage of this," Johnson told Rushing, saying he was particularly impressed that Rushing had earned an "A" in algebra since his arrest.
"You could have gone to prison for life, and you didn't get any money. That tells me you aren't a smart criminal. This is not the life for you. You've gotten a break. What you do with it is up to you."
A Section on 04/24/2018
Print Headline: Man gets 30 years in killing of LR girl