A single bullet fired Saturday night into a car carrying a family of five took the life of a vibrant, polite and thoughtful child, leaving the authorities and the boy’s family searching for answers.
With the killer of Terrez Coleman, 7, still on the loose, the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office on Monday implored anyone with information about the perplexing shooting to come forward. The shooting, which occurred in a wooded area of Prescott Road near Joor Road, remains under investigation.
Meanwhile, grief counselors met with Coleman’s family and his classmates from Inspire Charter Academy on North Foster Drive where Terrez’s two sisters — one of whom was grazed by the bullet that killed her brother — also attend school.
“The class misses him a lot,” said Mandy Gajeski, a teacher at the school who knew Terrez as a talkative boy with a mature demeanor. The school held a moment of silence Monday morning in memory of Terrez, Gajeski said.
“He acted like he was the older brother,” the teacher said, even though Terrez was the younger brother of his 11-year-old twin sisters, Te’lia and Ty’lia.
Now, detectives face the task of trying to piece together an investigation into Terrez’s death based on a dearth of evidence and, at least partly, the vague description family members provided to them about a passing vehicle from which the bullet may have been fired. The vehicle appeared dark in color, the Sheriff’s Office reported.
No other details about the investigation have been revealed and it’s unclear where the gunshot originated.
The shooting occurred about 11 p.m. Saturday as the Coleman family — all three children and their parents — were driving home from a family reunion in Clinton. A bullet pierced the rear side door of their vehicle and grazed Ty’lia’s stomach before striking Terrez, who was sitting between his two sisters, said the boy’s mother, Felicia Coleman.
“I thought the tire blew out,” Coleman, who was sitting in the front passenger seat, said of the “pop” noise she heard as the dark-colored vehicle passed them.
But within moments, her two daughters realized something terrible had happened. The concerned mother turned around to see a back seat covered in blood, her son slumped to the side, she said.
“He died almost instantly,” the boy’s mother said.
Dr. Beau Clark, the parish coroner, said a preliminary autopsy performed Monday morning indicated Terrez died from a single gunshot wound to the torso. Investigators ruled the child’s death a homicide, Clark said.
He described Terrez’s death as “absolutely horrific.”
“They were doing nothing more than just riding down the road,” Clark said. “This is horrible, it really is.”
Shortly after Terrez was shot, the boy’s father, Terry Coleman, drove to the nearby 6th District fire station at the corner of Prescott Road and Lanier Drive. Firefighters attempted to revive the boy, but he was already dead.
Ty’lia was treated and released from a hospital.
“It happened so fast,” Terry Coleman said.
Terrez’s father said his son loved baseball and basketball. The boy also welcomed responsibility. Coleman often would call home while on shift-duty at Delta Machine & Ironworks, Inc., a machine shop just south of Choctaw Drive. Terrez would tell his father he had everything under control at the house — there was no need to worry.
“He was the man,” Coleman said of his son.
Shirley King, who lives next door to the Colemans in Baker, said Terrez and her grandson used to play in the yard on a regular basis. They played together on Saturday morning, King said.
“It’s affected the whole community because we all lost a loving child,” King said.
She said her grandson was struggling to cope with the untimely loss of his friend.
At Terrez’s home on Monday, a piece of paper with a colorful drawing sat in the front yard. Nearby, Terrez’s horse — an animal his parents made the final payment on just hours before their son’s death — milled about, grazing on the green turf.
The Colemans bought the horse within the past two weeks. But it had no name until Saturday when Terrez decided to dub him “James Brown” — “James” because it was his middle name and “Brown” because that’s the color of the horse’s fur, his mother said.
Terrez never got the chance to call the horse by name.
“My baby was supposed to bury me,” Felicia Coleman said, “not me bury him.”
She begged anyone with information about her son’s death to contact the Sheriff’s Office at (225) 389-5000 or Crime Stoppers at (225) 344-7867.
“For somebody to take him like that …” she said, her voice trailing off before picking up again, “that was my only boy. And I can’t get another one back.”
Follow Ben Wallace on Twitter, @_BenWallace.