Friends, family of dad killed in North Marion Middle School parking lot heartbroken over death: 'This is hard'

Friends and family of the young father killed outside a middle school are reacting to his death.

Joseph James Juarez Coles, known as Joey, was shot six times on Wednesday in the North Marion Middle School parking lot.

"This is hard… this is real hard on me right now," his mother Gussie Coles told FOX 35. "I just can’t believe my son is dead. My son was a loving father, he was a caring person, he didn’t mind helping nobody."

The 32-year-old father of three was at the school to attend his son’s awards ceremony.

RELATED: Man allegedly shoots, kills fiancée's ex in school parking lot custody battle

Coles’ friend and roommate, Woo Hicks, was just feet away from the gunfire and tried to help.

"I take off my shirt… you feel me? I’m trying to like hold the f*****g wounds, type s**t pressure… that’s what I was told… pressure," Hicks said. "I did everything I could, I wasn’t working… it wasn’t good enough; It wasn’t good enough."

Shot six times, Coles was pronounced dead at a nearby hospital. The alleged gunman, Roderick Watson, 34, is engaged to Coles’ ex-wife. He stayed at the scene.

"He was laughing; he was smiling – he was proud of what he did," Hicks said. "He was proud of that."

According to the Marion County Sheriff’s Office, it all started as a dispute over which parent was taking the children. According to an arrest affidavit, witnesses stated they watched Watson shoot Coles while he was holding his daughter’s hand.


"He mostly lived his life for his kids; his kids were everything," said Sophilia Givens. "If he didn’t have his kids, he was unhappy. Everything he lived for, every breath that he lived for was to try to do whatever he could do for his children."

Givens, Coles’ pastor, said he brought his children to church every other Sunday when he had custody of them.

"He involved them in the activities of the church, he involved them in the plays, the skits – whatever we had going on, he was there," Givens said.

According to Hicks, just hours before the shooting, Coles was shopping for a dress shirt for his son to wear at the ceremony.

"He’s never going to be able to walk his daughter down the aisle, you feel me? He’s never going to see his kids graduate from high school," Hicks said. "He’s never going to see none of that."

After Coles fell to the ground, witnesses told deputies Watson began beating him. According to the arrest affidavit, Watson told deputies he was acting in self-defense, but the reporting deputy stated there was no evidence supporting that claim.

Watson is charged with second-degree murder and is being held without bond.