He was, at the time of his death, a young man with a turbulent life and a place in the gun culture. We started to write about it at the time, almost three years ago, and then set this report aside, to finish when the case broke.
The case never broke. It’s still an open case today. But no one’s ever been fingered, charged, indicted, arrested. The authorities have said little. They certainly know more than they’re saying. But it seems unlikely that they know much more than they’re saying.
We first saw a blog report — we didn’t write down which blog, unfortunately — that said:
Keith Ratliff, the manager of FPS Russia, the 3rd most popular youtube channel was found dead yesterday, tied up to a chair and shot in the back of the head.
In retrospect, that seems to be asserting information that was not accurate. Subsequent stories have indicated that Ratliff was not tied up, and the police seem to have said only that he was shot in the head — not from which direction. They have never, as far as we know, publicly identified the firearm used to kill Ratliff. They have only said that it was not at the scene of the crime — even though other firearms were.
At the time, we were aware of FPS Russia. Ratliff, the dead man, was not the main actor you see in the videos, Kyle Myers, but was a business partner. From the first time we heard the guy open his mouth it was pretty clear that he was an American southerner ineptly faking a Russian accent. We never much liked their videos, which struck us as juvenile clowning with guns, but they have been extremely popular.
The FPS stands for First Person Shooter, and Myers started off playing violent video games, particularly the Call of Duty franchise. From there he developed interest in actual firearms, which he’d often deploy in the videos with more brio than skill.
Ratliff did appear onscreen in some videos, but was generally a behind-the-scenes player in the FPSRussia business.
Ratliff was found shot dead in the company offices in Carnesville, Georgia. The case is under investigation by the local Sheriff and the GBI. As far as we know the ATF has not actively assisted in the investigation; they have also investigated FPSRussia, but that was in a stretching attempt to find a way to charge the popular video channel’s personnel with Destructive Device violations for using Tannerite in videos.
Who killed Keith? Speculation runs the gamut. There have been conspiracy theories suggesting that this is some program of black-bag violence against pro-gun voices. You hear questions like: “why was he murdered mob style?” People blame his women,soured business counterparties, some creep who just hates FPSRussia. (We don’t care for the videos, but there’s no capital offense in ’em. They’re certainly popular, with millions of subscribers).
Why was he murdered “mob style”? Well, let’s wait and see if he was. An alternative theory or two suggests itself. First, it could have been suicide. The police are investigating a homicide, but they’ve never ruled suicide out. No gun on the scene? Someone tampered with the site, perhaps. Or it could have been an accident. We realize that suggesting that guys who have built a business around clowning around with guns might have had an accident is going to be seen as “out there” by all those people who grew up watching TV and expect every mystery to be resolved in time for the commercial break, ideally by pinning the murders on a CIA conspiracy. Again, the absence of the gun and the absence of any evidence of intrusion suggests to us not that it was done by the Silent Ninja Platoon of General Gaylord’s Homosexual Brigade (“Death from Behind!”), but more probably that someone authorized and expected to be there removed the firearm — and, possibly, used it to kill poor Ratliff.
Did the CIA do it? It’s pretty doubtful that anyone at CIA knew who these characters are, or in the case of Ratliff, were. Same goes for any other Federal agency.
This is a radio news report on the ID of what was originally a John Doe body. The information here from Franklin County, GA, Sheriff Stevie Thomas, seems credible. And Thomas is being very cautious.
That caution has continued. Almost no information has been released in the case. FPSRussia is back in production, but its soaring trajectory seems to have been adjusted downwards by the murder and the interruption in service that followed.
Here’s a video documentary — a short one — using the whole bag of 60 Minutes ambush interview tricks; most of the footage they got was edited out, and the whole thing, as presented, is as inconclusive as the actual investigation has been.
We did get an impression of who the video producers think might be responsible. We weren’t impressed with their investigational skills, or their journalistic ethics. They will go far in the network environment.
The most interesting performance on the video comes when one of the other behind the scenes personnel from FPS Russia unloads on her interviewer. Yes, the press can make a bad situation worse for crime victims, and seldom fails to do do. “You’re doing this for entertainment,” she says, and it’s the most true and clear statement on the video.
Whoever killed Keith Ratliff seems to have understood the basics of How to Get Away With Murder:
- Give time for the grievance that motivates you to be forgotten by others.
- Whack somebody who has a bunch of potential whackers, so the cops fix on them and not you.
- Do it someplace remote, and don’t touch anything.
- Remove the murder weapon from the scene and dispose of it permanently.
- Don’t tell anybody. Not that you’re going to do it, or that you did it. If you come to take Vienna, take Vienna. And then shut up about it. Don’t tell anybody. Ever.
Murderers get caught because they strike in hot blood, leave a mountain of evidence, and, most of all, run their mouths. One thing we know about this murderer is hat he was smart enough not to do that, and so he’s free.
For now. But sometimes at nights, he hears the beating of wings. The wings are the angels of justice, and as long as that Georgia sheriff does not quit, they are coming for the killer, some day.