East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff Sid Gautreaux III held up a photo of a smiling 7-year-old boy Wednesday, announced the offer of a $12,500 reward and called on the public to help find the person who fired the shot that ended the child’s life Saturday night as he rode in a car with his family.
“This senseless killing must not go unpunished,” Gautreaux said during a Wednesday news conference. “I’m calling on this community to rally around this family.”
Seven-year-old Terrez Coleman, his two sisters and his parents, Felicia and Terry Coleman, were heading back from a family reunion through a wooded part of Prescott Road near Joor Road about 11 p.m. Saturday when the car’s window was punctured by a single bullet. The bullet grazed one of the sisters and struck Terrez in the torso, killing him almost instantly. The brother was sitting between his sisters when he was struck. His sisters survived.
Felicia Coleman said she thought a tire had popped, but turned around to see her son slumped over.
“Every homicide is tragic — but a case in which a completely innocent child is shot and killed is devastating,” said Gautreaux, who added that the Coleman family was not targeted.
He said the reward is for information leading to the arrest and arraignment of a suspect in the killing. Of the total reward, $10,000 came from donations by area residents.
Gautreaux also published a photo of the sedan that may be the one from which the shot was fired. The family remembered a dark-colored car passing them in the opposite direction seconds before the shot pierced their car’s rear side door. But authorities now believe the car was a light-colored four-door sedan, Gautreaux said.
The apparently random drive-by shooting has shocked and horrified community leaders, who gathered earlier on Wednesday at Rose Hill Baptist Church, the church Terrez attended since he was a toddler, to offer support and condolences for the family.
“Our hearts go out to them as parents, as many of us, if not most of us, are sitting at this table, we can only imagine the horrific pain of losing a child and losing a child in such a terrible way,” said the Rev. Raymond A. Jetson, of Star Hill Baptist Church.
Jetson said the community must work to strengthen family and community foundations, re-enforce standards of right and wrong, and develop a strategy for dealing with inner city problems grounded in spirituality.
“We can’t arrest our way out of the problem, we can’t through criminal justice matters fix all of the problems that we face,” Jetson said.
The Rev. Danny Donaldson, pastor of Rose Hill, recalled how he was up late Saturday working on Sunday’s sermon when he received a phone call from a number he didn’t recognize.
He let the call go to voicemail, called the number back and heard the devastating news that Terrez, the vibrant 7-year-old who hugged Donaldson every Sunday after Mass at Rose Hill Baptist Church, was dead. Donaldson spent most of the night at the hospital with grieving family members, not preaching to them, but praying with them.
“What do you tell a mother, a father and twin girls that have just lost a son and a brother? What do you tell them? How do you express sympathy? How do you tell them that everything is going to be OK?” Donaldson asked Wednesday while surrounded by 11 other pastors at Rose Hill Baptist Church.
He went home from the hospital about 5 a.m., cleaned up, got ready for the 7 a.m. service, then hugged and kissed his two children, ages 11 and 13, who were still sleeping.
“As I walked out the door with tears in my eyes, I came to the realization that a mother and a father went home without a child that night,” Donaldson said. “How do you cope with that? Even as I preached on Sunday morning, I was emotional because this shouldn’t happen.”
Donaldson said during his emotional sermons Sunday, he challenged his congregation to think outside the box when working in the community and sharing testimonials with teens and children. He and others said church leaders need to get out into the community and interact with people outside the churches.
“If someone had shared Christ with the person who shot this person (Terrez) before this, maybe he wouldn’t have done it,” Donaldson said.