A daylight assassination in Brewerytown two weeks ago has left a family in mourning and pondering how their eldest son went from high school graduate to street corner hustler to what police list as 2015’s 14th homicide, in a city where gun violence is epidemic.
"He left at 2:15. His girlfriend got the call. I was devastated," Denene Coleman tearfully recalled of the day her son Paris Kadeem Coleman, 21, was murdered.
"I wish I told him I loved him. I never got to say goodbye to my baby," she said through her tears.
Coleman recalled her son Paris, known as "Peedie," who leaves behind two daughters, as a warm, loving young man with a vibrant sense of humor.
"No one knew how much Paris meant to me. Paris didn't know how much he meant to me," said his younger brother, DJ. "I don't got nobody anymore. I don't go no life anymore."
Coleman’s circle of friends have created a memorial to him at Hollywood and Thompson Streets, just a block south of where he was murdered on a Sunday in broad daylight.
“My cousin had called me … she said ‘I think you need to sit down,’” recalled Alicia Collins, 28, a childhood friend of Paris’s. “She said ‘Paris is gone.’ I said ‘What you mean by that?’ She said ‘Somebody shot him and he's laying in the middle of the street’... and I just dropped the phone and started screaming.”
“Since Paris died I just feel like I’m in a dream,” she said.
Lori Rohrbach, Paris’ 10th-grade english teacher at Roberts Vaux High School, remained close with Paris throughout school after working with him on a report about “To Kill a Mockingbird.”
“It’s painful,” Rohrbach said. “He was really just a funny kid. He was really nice, and he had a good heart. He was always coming in the classroom to talk about stuff that was going on in his life.”
Police have made no arrests yet, saying that witnesses to the murder, which police said was in part driven by a grudge, in part by narcotics, are not cooperating
"Friends or cohorts know who did this," said Lt. John Deegan of the PPD Homicide Unit. "Some witnesses are being a little less than forthright with us. We’re trying to see if family members will talk to them to get them to be more helpful."
Paris was murdered just blocks away from his house. Some friends and family said the shooter was a former friend who had come to hate Paris.
"They didn't have to do my baby like that," said Rosa Colbert, Paris' grandmother. "They shot him down like a dirty dog."
But for Coleman, the grief is deepened by the knowledge that her son used to have a future.
According to his mother, shortly before he graduated high school, Paris got in trouble defending a friend -- a queer woman who was being threatened on 29th Street in Brewerytown.
Later that night, the group of men who had harassed the woman came back and shot Paris nine times, his mother said. That left him with bullets lodged in his leg, arm and spine, and a prescription to Percocet -- to which he soon became addicted, she said.
“He never recovered from that,” Coleman said. “He was shell-shocked.”
While recovering from the shooting, Paris lost his job at Walmart, his mother said, and his only income from working on the corners.
"Paris wasn't a saint," she said. "He wouldn't sit there and lie and say he was. He did some bad things."
At the time of his death, Paris was on probation for a 2011 arrest for drug dealing, according to court records. He had two other arrests for possession of drugs, one last March for marijuana.
Carlida Bradley, Coleman’s ex-girlfriend, knew Paris since middle school, she said.
“I saw it all, from the innocent Paris to the Peedie Yola boy, as they called him, and to a man that was trying to take on his own responsibilities," she said.
Bradley said about five months ago, after a conversation with her, Paris told her he wanted to change his life, and take a more active role raising their daughter, 2.
“I told him I wanted him to step up, I said ‘Do your job.’ He said he's not 100 percent fully recovered [from the shooting], he couldn’t find a stable job because of the record he had. He really didn't know where to turn," she said.
But as Bradley saw him change, she also believe that in some ways deepened the grudge that led to Paris’ killer deciding to pull the trigger. His murder had nothing to do with narcotics, she said. “It was all emotion.”
“He stopped selling drugs, he stopped taking Percs and everything … But that was his downfall at the same time. People didn't like the life he was living, or it was just jealousy.”
Coleman also said her son had left the streets behind months ago.
"Paris was no longer in the street and he was turning his life around," she said. "His death had nothing to with narcotics but hatred and jealously."
But her son’s death fulfilled his own grim prophecy, Coleman said.
“I begged him, I pleaded with him to come off the streets,” she recalled. “He said, ‘Mom, once I come off these streets, something’s gonna happen. That’s how it always happens.’”
Update: One year after this piece was published, Denene Coleman spoke again to Metro and about her son's murder and the death of his suspected killer.