HUNTSVILLE, Texas—Condemned inmate Ronald Ray Howard remembers the Texas state trooper pulling him over, then walking up to the side of his sport utility vehicle as gangsta rap music played on the radio.
“How you doing?” Trooper Bill Davidson said to the then 18-year-old Houston man.
“But I was already in motion,” Howard recalled Wednesday from a small cage in the visiting area of death row at a prison outside Livingston. “I’d already shot as I hear him saying that.”
Within hours, Howard was caught in Victoria, not far from the shooting scene along U.S. Highway 59 near Edna. He wrecked the SUV, which he had stolen, by crashing it into a house, then tried to flee on foot.
When Davidson, 43, died three days later after never regaining consciousness from the 9 mm bullet wound to the neck, Howard was charged with capital murder.
Howard was set to die Thursday evening.
The music blaring from the radio made the slaying more notorious. At Howard’s trial, his lawyers blamed hours and hours of incessant gangsta rap music—with lyrics advocating the death of police officers—as contributing to his actions. The defense sparked a national debate on the violence-laden anti-police music and censorship..
“He grew up in the ghetto and disliked police and these were his heroes, these rappers . . . telling him if you’re pulled over, just blast away,” his trial attorney, Allen Tanner, recalled last week. “It affected him. That was a totally valid serious defense. It really was.”
Howard told a grand jury he was listening to “Soulja’s Story” by Tupac Shakur before he shot Davidson. The song makes references to a young black male being pulled over by police, remembering Rodney King whose videotaped beating by Los Angeles police led to deadly riots in 1992, then opening fire on an officer. Shakur was gunned down in 1996 in Las Vegas, a slaying that remains unsolved.