George Edward Reusch and his wife had gone to bed when police showed up at their Prairieville home Monday night to tell them their son had been killed.
“I heard a knock on the door and thought it was UPS,” Reusch said. “We had a lot of packages coming in. And then it turns out it’s two detectives.”
Their son, George Hardin Kees Reusch Jr., 27, was pronounced dead at a hospital after he was shot in the Hooters Restaurant parking lot off College Drive just north of Interstate 10.
Investigators believe the 27-year-old, known as “Kees,” was shot about 7:20 p.m. Monday as he sat in his Grand Cherokee Jeep, which was parked in the lot, said Lt. Jonny Dunnam, a Baton Rouge police spokesman.
Shortly after the shooting, two men, thought to have been involved in the killing, ran from the parking lot, and headed northeast, Dunnam said.
A possible motive in the slaying remained unclear as of Tuesday afternoon.
A witness, who declined to be identified, said he told police he saw two men sitting on a bench near the Hooters parking lot a few minutes after 7 p.m. A black SUV, which was later identified as Reusch’s Jeep, pulled up and parked, he said.
One of the men, wearing a white T-shirt, immediately walked up to the vehicle, the witness said, and got into the passenger seat and closed the door.
The witness said that within minutes he heard a gunshot, and the man appeared to fall or trip out of the passenger side of the Jeep. The man climbed back into the vehicle, and then got out, this time carrying a backpack-like bag, the witness said.
The two men ran away together, headed toward Corporate Boulevard, the witness said.
About 30 seconds later, the Jeep, with Reusch inside, rolled through the parking lot and into traffic on College Drive where it rammed into a silver pickup, police and the witness said.
Cpl. L’Jean McKneely, a Baton Rouge police spokesman, on Tuesday would not confirm the witness’s account, citing an ongoing investigation. He also would not say whether drugs were involved or whether anything had been removed from Reusch’s vehicle.
He did say the two men had not been customers in any of the stores or restaurants in the strip mall.
Reusch’s father said Tuesday morning he thought his son may have been killed in a carjacking as he had just bought him the Jeep Grand Cherokee the week before.
Investigators do not believe it was a carjacking, though they are open to the possibility, McKneely said.
“They would’ve stolen the vehicle,” McKneely said. “We don’t see that as being part of it.”
Detectives had no suspects Tuesday, but they did have surveillance video, McKneely said. Also, people are calling in tips, he said, and detectives are following up on those leads.
Beverly Kees Reusch said Tuesday morning she was still in shock over her son’s death.
She and her husband sat in comfortable chairs on either side of their front window. Christmas decorations were scattered around the cozy den: a colorful Christmas tree sat perched on their coffee table, and a line of stockings hung from their fireplace. Hardly a surface in the their living room went untouched in preparation for Christmas Day.
“He’s 27 and still talks to his mama four times a day,” Beverly Reusch said.
Reusch Jr. has been engaged to 21-year-old Yasbeth Espinosa, of Mexico, for the last two and half years and the couple have a seven-month-old son, Roman Kees Reusch. The two were talking about getting married in February, his mother said as she pulled out several family photos.
Reusch Jr. grew up in Houston with his older sister and parents. The family moved to Prairieville where he attended Dutchtown High School.
Beverly Reusch said her son was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes when he was young and that he took up bodybuilding as a way to keep his weight up.
The couple said their son was especially charismatic.
“He could walk into a room where he didn’t know anybody and come out knowing half the people,” his father said.
As the couple talked about their son, his best friend, Anthony Wilson, arrived at their house.
Wilson made a beeline to Reusch Jr.’s mother for a hug.
Beverly Reusch repeated “my baby” over and over, quietly sobbing into his shoulder.
“There’s so much to (George). You don’t have enough paper,” Wilson said, as he stood up and pulled off his cap, wiping his eyes dry. “He was one of the best friends you could have, and now he’s gone.”
The couple said they are hopeful that justice will be served.
“I truly believe in karma,” Beverly Reusch said.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This story was updated on Dec. 23 to correct that Reusch was pronounced dead at a hospital. He did not die in an EMS ambulance, as Baton Rouge police earlier reported. The Advocate regrets the error.