Middletown man gets 10 years in shooting

March 14, 2000|By BRENDAN KIRBY

Kenneth Daniel Ramsburg had been drinking and was angry when he retrieved a 12-gauge shotgun from his Middletown, Md., home last summer and headed out to find two men he had fought with earlier that night.

The details of what happened on Aug. 14 and shortly after midnight on Aug. 15 vary depending on the witness.

But all agree the altercation ended with Ramsburg firing shots at one man in Frederick County, Md., and shooting another at a liquor store in southern Washington County.

"You made a lot of mistakes - big ones - even though you have no record," said Washington County Circuit Court Judge Donald E. Beachley, who sentenced Ramsburg to 10 years in prison Tuesday. "You can't take the law into your own hands. If you choose to do so, consequences will follow."

Ramsburg, 39, pleaded guilty to first-degree assault Tuesday as part of a plea bargain. In exchange, charges of attempted murder, second-degree assault, reckless endangerment and malicious destruction were dropped.


Beachley gave Ramsburg a 20-year state prison term for first-degree assault, but suspended half of the sentence. He also ordered him to remain on probation for five years after his release.

Last week, Ramsburg pleaded guilty in Frederick County Circuit Court to attempted first-degree murder. He will be sentenced for that offense next month.

According to police reports, the fight began on the night of Aug. 14 when Ramsburg and another man, who had been drinking at the Brookside Inn in Frederick County, argued over who had the faster car.

Ramsburg went to the bathroom and when he returned, the other man punched him in the jaw, according to the documents charging Ramsburg.

Witnesses' accounts of what happened next differ.

Ramsburg contends two men followed him home that night and shot at his Middletown house. Law enforcement authorities have not charged anyone in that incident.

Defense attorney Mary Riley offered the shooting allegations as a mitigating factor, saying her client was motivated by a desire to defend himself against "bullies" who had been harassing him for some time before the Aug. 14 confrontation.

That harassment culminated at the Brookside Inn, Riley said.

"And they followed him. And they shot at him," she said.

Assistant Washington County State's Attorney Duane Gigeous said Ramsburg should have called police when he got home.

"There are a lot of disputed facts We are not here to determine which of these stories are true," he said. "There is one person at fault here, and that is Mr. Ramsburg."

Ramsburg got his shotgun and went looking for the men, according to police and prosecutors.

Ramsburg fired three shots at Andy M. Ebner, who was driving a pickup truck in the 7200 block of Mountain Church Road in Middletown.

After Ebner asked why Ramsburg was shooting at him, Ramsburg told him he had mistaken him for someone else and apologized. He handed Ebner his business card and offered to pay for any damage.

Ramsburg then drove to Hillside Liquors on Keep Tryst Road in southern Washington County, where he shot John Collin Smith in the lower right leg shortly after midnight, charging documents say.

"He had no right, in any place in this land, to arm himself and go hunt down the people who had wronged him," Gigeous said.

Riley described Ramsburg as a good man who has worked hard to take care of his family. He dropped out of school in the 10th grade to go to work because his father became seriously ill, she said.

Riley said Ramsburg has worked at a nursery for about 20 years and had an excavation business on the side.

"This is not an individual who bothers people. He's not a troublemaker or a bully," she said. "He's a family man."

Beachley said he could not ignore the seriousness of the crime. Although he deferred to the prosecution's sentence recommendation, he said he would have leaned toward a stiffer penalty.

"Your actions that night not only hurt yourself, it probably hurt your family 10 times as much," he said.

Ramsburg's wife, two children and other family members watched solemnly as Beachley handed down his sentence Tuesday.

"He's a good man. He did something he regrets," said Ramsburg's father-in-law, Edward Butts, in an interview. "He did what he had to do to protect his family He didn't intend to kill."

Ramsburg's wife, Brenda Ramsburg, said in an interview her husband had called the Frederick County Sheriff's Department on other occasions but had not received a timely response.

"I know what he did was wrong. But he was protecting his family," she said.

The Herald-Mail Articles