SHREVEPORT, La. (KMSS/KTAL) – Sunday afternoon, NBC6/FOX33’s Zyneria Byrd sat down with the son of a man fatally shot by a stranger over a parking spot in front of the home of a recently-deceased relative.
Roderick Gaut, and his family had just attended the funeral of his wife’s uncle, and had gone to a family members home for the repast. A number of cars were parked outside, and a neighbor took issue with where Gaut chose to park.
According to police, the neighbor and Gaut had a brief verbal exchange, and then the neighbor, 65-year-old Ronald Parker, allegedly pulled a gun and, shot Gaut in the chest, as stunned family members watched.
Although Gaut was rushed to the hospital, he was pronounced dead 30 minutes later. Parker was arrested and charged with 2nd degree murder.
Today, just 24 hours after Gaut’s death, his son, Roderick “R.J” Gaut II, and his wife, Christina, were at the home of Gaut’s father, retired Shreveport Police Lt. Donald Gaut, where they spoke to NBC6/FOX33 Sunday afternoon.
As Christina Gaut held her 17-year-old son in her arms, R.J. remembered his dad, calling him an incredible man, a great father. “He was an entertaining person, incredible man, great father someone you wish would be your father,” he said.
With pride, the younger Gaut talked of his dad’s love of sports, how his jersey was No. 54 during the three years he was a linebacker on the Huntington High School football team.
“When I started playing T-ball,” R.J. said through tears, “I wore No. 54, just like him.”
It was that love of sports, and of his oldest son, who inspired Roderick Sr. to start a non-profit sports organization for kids. “Everything went straight to the kids,” R.J. said. “He had a football team and a basketball team…He told my best friend Manny, I did this for R.J., just so I can spend more time with my son.”
R.J. added that it wasn’t always easy. “My dad pushed me so hard in life to be good, great, to do 100 percent. He used to say, ‘give me 110 percent.’” But, his son added, his dad also said, “’you can’t give no more than your all,’ so he went from that to saying give it all you got.”
But, his son added, his dad said sports “are not going always take you everywhere you want to go. He said you need an education first – that ‘in student athlete, student comes first.'”
He talked about what a good man his father was, how he “never turned down anyone,” and would work from “5 in the morning to 5 in the evening” and then sometimes help someone until 1 a.m., “knowing he had to get up at 3:30 in the morning” to go to work the next day.
“I had an awesome father,” R.J. said, through tears. “He was such a caring person. He didn’t deserve it…”
“It wasn’t his time, it wasn’t. I know in my heart it wasn’t his time, someone just made a bad decision and stripped that away from us, stripped a father, a son, an uncle and mentor from this community.”
With a wisdom far beyond his years, the bereaved son spoke of what had been taken away from his father, him, his younger brother, Jayden and toddler sister, Journie.
“He won’t have a chance to hold his grandbabies, he won’t be a grandfather. He won’t get to watch his son walk across the stage and get his high school diploma; he won’t see his oldest son graduate from college.
“He won’t get the chance to see his baby boy (Jayden) finish elementary school; he won’t get to see his baby girl go to pre-K.”
And then, taking his place as the oldest son of his fallen father, he said, “Our family is in grief right now. So am I. Everyone’s grieving in a different way.”
Although he said he knew his dad wouldn’t want him to cry, right now, he needs to. “He was my father.”
Saying his dad did his “absolute best” to provide for him, his mom, his little brother and sister, he vowed that everything he does “from here on out” will be for his dad. “I’m going to graduate high school; I’m going to graduate college.”
Then, turning to hug his mother, the carefree teenager who was forced to become man on a warm, sunny July afternoon in Anderson Island, said, “I got you, mama. I got you.”
And just above a whisper, Christina Gaut said, “Thank you, baby.”