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Ocala man allegedly shot, killed fiancee’s ex in school parking lot over custody dispute

Law enforcement authorities have released a report detailing the arrest of a 34-year-old Ocala man who is accused of fatally shooting the father of two of his fiancée’s children in the parking lot of a Marion County middle school.

The fatal shooting occurred shortly after 6 p.m. on Wednesday, May 22, in the parking lot of North Marion Middle School located at 2085 W Highway 329 in Citra.

North Marion Middle School main office on May 22
MCSO deputies responded to North Marion Middle School on Wednesday evening after reports of a shooting. (Photo: MCSO)

Marion County Sheriff’s Office deputies were dispatched to the school after receiving reports of a shooting. Upon arrival, deputies located a man, identified as 32-year-old Joseph James Coles, who had sustained multiple gunshot wounds, according to MCSO.

The victim was transported to a local hospital, where he later succumbed to his injuries.

The arrest report stated that the victim was found in the school’s northwest parking lot, just west of the cafeteria. At the time of the shooting, the middle school was hosting an awards ceremony that was attended by dozens of parents and children.

The deputies located the suspected shooter, identified as Roderick Kelvin Watson, Jr., sitting on a nearby bench, and he was detained in handcuffs without incident. The report stated that Watson told deputies, “I’m the shooter,” and he informed them that the firearm was inside his vehicle, according to the report.

Roderick Kelvin Watson, Jr.
Roderick Kelvin Watson, Jr.

Deputies spoke with witnesses who advised that Watson had gotten into an argument with the victim in the school’s parking lot. The sheriff’s office stated that during the verbal altercation, Watson allegedly pulled out a handgun, shot the victim multiple times, and punched the victim as he lay unconscious on the ground.

Watson’s fiancée spoke with deputies and advised that she was at North Marion Middle School to attend the awards ceremony with him. According to the report, she mentioned that she was previously in a relationship with the victim, and they had two children together who were students at the middle school.

According to the fiancée’s statement, Watson and the victim were in the parking lot discussing “who the children would be going with.” She advised that the victim wanted to take the children with him, which she rebutted by stating that there were still a couple of days remaining in the school year.

The fiancée advised that the victim proceeded to grab her arm, and Watson allegedly exited his vehicle and shot the victim before punching him several times.

The report stated that a total of six spent 9mm handgun shell casings were found in the parking lot. A silver handgun was also found inside Watson’s vehicle, and its slide “appeared to be locked back indicating (it) fired all ammunition in the magazine or was physically pulled back.”

According to the sheriff’s office, detectives learned that the victim had sustained a total of six gunshot wounds to his abdomen, right upper rib cage, right bicep, right collar bone, middle back, and upper back.

A corporal noted in the report that Watson had “suspected blood” on his shorts, and “fresh injuries” were observed on his knuckles and knees. The report stated that these injuries were “consistent with being over the victim on the pavement as described by the witnesses.”

During an interview, Watson told law enforcement that the shooting was in self-defense. However, the sheriff’s office stated in a media release that witness statements and evidence recovered at the scene “contradicted his claim.”

Watson was arrested and transported to Marion County Jail, where he is currently being held without bond. He is being charged with second-degree murder with a firearm.

A court date has not been scheduled yet, according to jail records.

Marion County Sheriff Billy Woods released the following statement regarding the shooting incident:

“A senseless homicide is always upsetting to each of us. But, in this instance, it is even more upsetting because we have children that have done well throughout the school year and are there to receive awards when an adult chose to set the worst example and commit such a violent act nearby. I immediately put every available detective on this case, and I am proud of their work in getting this disgusting individual off our streets and away from our children.”