Man accused of Berlin motel murder believed people were trying to kill him

BERLIN – An arrest warrant for the man accused of shooting and killing a Berlin motel clerk reveals he was under the influence of PCP and believed the clerk was involved in a plot to have him killed.

Rahheem McDonald, 37, of Waterbury is facing murder and gun charges after the shooting on Sunday morning at the Days Inn Berlin on the Berlin Turnpike.

Police responding to the scene found 25-year-old Pratikkumar Jagani lying on the floor behind the counter with a gunshot wound to the forehead and no signs of life. Police were later able to track McDonald down because he had crashed his car in North Haven just minutes after fleeing the motel.

Court documents detail a hospital room interview where McDonald confessed to investigators. McDonald told them he had been staying at the Days Inn to get away from Waterbury where recently there had been a lot of “heat on him.” He said people there weren’t happy with him and were looking to do him harm.

He admitted he had marijuana and PCP on him at the motel and had met up with a prostitute there in the hours before the shooting.

McDonald said sometime after midnight Sunday morning he noticed an SUV in the parking lot and believed there were people inside who wanted to kill him. He thought it was the prostitute who set him up and told those people he was hiding out at the motel.

He stated he ran to the hotel lobby and asked the clerk, Jagani, to call 911 because there were “guys in the parking lot that had guns” and were “looking to kill him.” McDonald told investigators Jagani refused to make the call and he then assumed Jagani was assisting the prostitute with setting him up.

McDonald said he went back to his room, but when he thought he heard people coming through the back door of the motel, he grabbed a 9mm Glock semi-automatic handgun and returned to the lobby. When he got there, he saw two young boys standing near the counter and told them twice to return to their room. He said he “wanted the kids to leave because he believed a shootout was about to happen and he didn’t want them to get hurt.”

McDonald said after the boys left, he took out the gun and shot Jagani twice. He stated he then exited the motel and drove off.

The arrest warrant states those two boys, ages 13 and 2, were in the lobby to get some milk. They told police a man dressed only in his boxers told them “You two come into my room right now.”

Police were initially responding to a report of an attempted child abduction when they found Jagani’s body.

Video surveillance from the Days Inn shows a brief interaction between the two boys and a man in his boxers. The video shows the boys leaving the lobby, the man having a brief conversation with the clerk, then the man returning and shooting the clerk three times.

McDonald appeared in New Britain Superior Court Thursday to be arraigned on charges including murder, criminal possession of a firearm, possession of a firearm without a permit, and possession of a high capacity magazine. He’s also facing charges out of North Haven as a result of the crash, which left two people injured.

McDonald left the courtroom crying after a judge set his bond at $2 million, citing his lengthy criminal history.

Jagani’s family members were also in court and told FOX61 they are still in shock and hurting.