Charles Barney was sitting in a car Friday evening, smoking a cigarette with his girlfriend outside her apartment on Starboard Avenue when he noticed a man in another vehicle who appeared to be selling drugs.
Barney walked over and confronted the man, said Tracie Thomas, Barney’s girlfriend.
“I’m just telling you not to do that in this driveway,” Barney told the man, according to Thomas. “I have people here that I love and care about.”
The confrontation quickly escalated into a heated argument.
“He cursed (Barney) out and told him it’s not his business,” Thomas said.
Barney, though, insisted that the man leave, Thomas said.
About 30 minutes later, the same man — identified by the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office as 29-year-old Ronald Joseph Jr. — opened fire as Barney walked across the street to talk to some relatives, striking him once in the chest.
Barney staggered into a neighboring apartment, Thomas said, where several people frantically tried to resuscitate him, but to no avail. Barney, 33, was pronounced dead at the scene.
Joseph, 1639 Starboard Ave., was arrested Sunday morning and booked into Parish Prison on counts of second-degree murder, illegal use of a firearm and possession of a firearm with an obliterated serial number.
Casey Rayborn Hicks, a spokeswoman for the Sheriff’s Office, said witnesses had also told investigators that “Barney confronted Joseph in reference to his selling narcotics in front of his apartment complex.”
On Sunday, Thomas, other members of his family and friends tried to come to terms with his death.
Thomas, who witnessed the shooting through her apartment window, said Barney had gotten back in his car after the argument and headed over to his mother’s house around the corner to check on her and take his dog for a walk. He’d just pulled back up to her apartment when the shooting started, Thomas said.
“(Joseph) must have been waiting because it was nothing but gunfire as soon as (Barney) came back,” Thomas said. “It was nine, 10, maybe 11 shots. I ran outside screaming and was looking for (Barney). By the time I found him, he was in an apartment, dead.”
Hicks said Sunday while Joseph fired multiple shots at Barney, only one bullet found its mark.
“It’s pretty devastating,” said Chanda Jones, a mother of three who lives in the same apartment building as Thomas. “He wasn’t only looking out for his family, he was looking out for my family also.”
Barney’s relatives said they weren’t surprised that he’d confronted someone about dealing drugs outside his girlfriend’s apartment. Assertive and outspoken, he’d always been quick to speak up, to intervene in a fight or to correct his many nieces and nephews, family members said.
“He was a real family man,” said Terri McLendon, his stepsister. “He was always very protective of his family.”
Barney’s mother, 54-year-old Rene Barney, said Sunday she still hadn’t come to grips with her son’s death. Suffering from a number of health issues, she said she’d relied on Barney to help take care of her.
“I just can’t understand it,” Rene Barney said at her home about three blocks from the site of the shooting. “I know it’s real, but there’s something in my head telling me it ain’t real.”
McLendon said that Barney was like a father to numerous kids in the neighborhood, including her two children.
McLendon and Barney’s 14-year-old sister, N’Dea Morris, were among the first to reach him after the shooting Friday and frantically tried to perform CPR as they waited for paramedics.
Thomas said she’d met Barney about 10 years ago through his mother and that the two had been close friends, dated off and on and had been a couple since January. Her four kids looked up to him, she said.
“They’re taking it hard,” Thomas said.
Rene Barney said she spoke briefly with her son after he dropped off his pit bull, Juice, Friday night.
“The last thing he said to me was, ‘Momma, I love you.’ ”
“I never thought I’d bury my child,” she said. “It’s a hard burden on me. People say it can get better, but I tell them they don’t know what I’m feeling. I don’t know if I’ll be able to cope. All I can do is just pray and ask God to please, please give me the strength.”