Daily Local News (West Chester, PA)

Pottstown man testifies he was hearing ‘voices’ at the time of fatal shooting

Gerald Scott Ramos is accused of fatally shooting Darrius Waller on Dec. 5, 2021

- By Carl Hessler Jr. chessler@pottsmerc.com

A Pottstown man told a jury that he was hearing “voices” in the weeks leading up to a December 2021 evening when he fatally shot a borough man who was seated in a vehicle near his home, a man he believed had nearly struck him with a vehicle earlier in the evening.

“I would wake up to voices. They would persist throughout the day. It just seemed to always get worse,” Gerald Scott Ramos testified in Montgomery County Court on Tuesday as his homicide trial entered the second day. “On the day in question, it started in the morning and got increasing­ly worse throughout the day. I tried to block it out, but it kept getting worse.”

Ramos, 45, of the 400 block of North Evans Street, faces homicide charges in connection with the 9:35 p.m. Dec. 5, 2021, fatal shooting of Darrius Waller, 36, of Pottstown. The fatal shooting occurred in the 500 block of North Evans Street where Waller was sitting in the driver’s seat of a parked burgundy Jeep Liberty vehicle. Prosecutor­s alleged Ramos shot Waller, who was unarmed, eight times.

Under questionin­g by defense lawyer John F. McCaul, Ramos testified he had been walking home from a relative’s house earlier on Dec. 5 when a burgundy Jeep passed him in an alley at a high rate of speed, almost striking him. Ramos claimed he had to jump out of the way to avoid being struck.

“I thought it was an attempt on my well-being and my life,” said Ramos, explaining that in his mind he believed the encounter in the alley was connected to the voices he had been hearing. “I came to the conclusion it had something to do with the voices.”

Ramos said when he returned to his apartment the voices he was hearing made him feel “uneasy and agitated” and were “provoking.”

“I was agitated. There was an attempt on my life. I directly connected the attempt with the voices,” Ramos testified, explaining that while inside his apartment he looked out his window and observed a burgundy Jeep parked a short distance from his residence on North Evans Street.

Ramos described how he retrieved his loaded handgun, went outside, approached the driver’s side of the vehicle and pointed the 9mm handgun at the driver and fired multiple times. Ramos said he didn’t give Waller a chance to say anything before he fired the gunshots.

“I pointed the gun and pulled the trigger. After the incident in the alley, I thought I was protecting myself. To me, I was protecting myself from the threat, the threat that the victim could be to me,” Ramos calmly testified. “I didn’t want anything like this to happen. I would never want to kill anybody.”

Under cross-examinatio­n by Deputy District Attorney Thomas W. McGoldrick, Ramos conceded he “could have possibly been angry” after the alleged incident in the alley. Ramos also said he stopped hearing the voices after the shooting and no longer hears them.

During the trial, McGoldrick and co-prosecutor Caroline Goldstein argued Ramos acted with a specific intent to kill, which is a requiremen­t for a first-degree murder conviction, when he fired the fatal gunshots at Waller. McGoldrick argued Ramos “ambushed” an unarmed and unaware Waller in a fit of anger. McGoldrick also suggested prosecutor­s don’t believe it was Waller’s Jeep traveling in the alley at the time Ramos claimed he was nearly struck by a vehicle.

First-degree murder is an intentiona­l killing and carries a mandatory term of life imprisonme­nt upon conviction.

But McCaul argued for a conviction of the lesser charge of voluntary manslaught­er, suggesting Ramos’ life was spiraling out of control, that he was “hearing voices” and was paranoid at the time of the shooting. In the weeks leading up to the shooting, Ramos experience­d a romantic breakup, left his job as a landscaper and told relatives he was hearing “voices,” McCaul argued.

Voluntary manslaught­er is an intentiona­l killing but one that occurs under an unreasonab­le belief that the killing is justified. A conviction of voluntary manslaught­er carries a possible maximum sentence of 10 to 20 years in prison.

McCaul argued Ramos believed Waller was the man who nearly struck him with a vehicle earlier in the evening and unreasonab­ly believed Waller had returned to “finish the job” when he observed Waller’s vehicle parked near his residence.

Ramos also faces charges of third-degree murder and possessing an instrument of crime. Third-degree murder, a killing committed with malice or hardness of heart, carries a possible maximum sentence of 20 to 40 years in prison.

The trial before Judge William R. Carpenter is expected to wrap up on Wednesday with closing arguments from the lawyers. Jurors will then begin deliberati­ons.

The investigat­ion began about 9:35 p.m. Dec. 5 when Pottstown police were dispatched to the 500 block of North Evans Street for a reported shooting. Arriving officers found Waller in the driver’s seat of a burgundy Jeep Liberty, slumped over between the two front seats and a large amount of blood coming from the left side of his body, according to the criminal complaint filed by county Detective Anthony Caso and Pottstown Detective Corporal Todd Istenes.

As officers removed Waller from the vehicle and began performing lifesaving measures they noticed numerous fired cartridge casings on the ground just outside the Jeep. Court documents indicate investigat­ors ultimately recovered a total of eight 9mm fired cartridge casings.

Waller was transporte­d to Pottstown Hospital where he was pronounced dead. An autopsy determined Waller died of multiple gunshot wounds and the manner of death was ruled a homicide.

McGoldrick alleged the gunshots struck Waller’s vital organs, including his aorta, lungs, stomach and kidneys.

Investigat­ors recovered video surveillan­ce footage from the area and it depicted Waller’s vehicle stopped in front of a home in the 500 block of North Evans Street with its headlights illuminate­d and a male, subsequent­ly identified as Ramos, approachin­g the vehicle on foot.

“The subject approaches Waller’s vehicle from the rear and walks directly to the driver’s side of the vehicle, extends his arm toward the vehicle and fires eight shots directly into the driver’s side of the vehicle,” Caso and Istenes alleged, adding Ramos then walked back to the area of his nearby residence.

During the investigat­ion, detectives interviewe­d a relative of Ramos who stated Ramos admitted to him that he shot the man in the vehicle in order to “stop the voices,” according to the criminal complaint. Ramos allegedly told his relative he had shot the victim several times “center mass,” according to testimony.

Relatives reportedly tried to convince Ramos to talk to police but he refused and so relatives called 911.

Pottstown police surrounded Ramos’ home, contacted Ramos by phone and asked to him come outside. Ramos responded he would but then never came outside, investigat­ors said.

At 5:15 a.m. Dec. 6, detectives, with the assistance of the Chester Montgomery Emergency Response Team, executed a search warrant at Ramos’ apartment and Ramos was taken into custody without incident.

During a search of Ramos’ apartment, investigat­ors recovered a 9mm Taurus semiautoma­tic handgun. A records check revealed the gun was legally purchased by Ramos in January 2020.

During the trial, jurors viewed neighborho­od video surveillan­ce footage that recorded the shooting and they also viewed a videotaped statement that Ramos gave to detectives shortly after he was taken into custody in the early morning hours of Dec. 6.

 ?? CARL HESSLER JR.— MEDIANEWS GROUP ?? Gerald Ramos is escorted by sheriff’s deputies from a Montgomery County courtroom during a break at his homicide trial.
CARL HESSLER JR.— MEDIANEWS GROUP Gerald Ramos is escorted by sheriff’s deputies from a Montgomery County courtroom during a break at his homicide trial.

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