North Marion Middle School shooting: Man allegedly shoots, kills fiancée's ex in parking lot custody battle

A 34-year-old man was arrested Wednesday after he allegedly shot and killed his fiancée's ex during a custody battle in the parking lot of a Marion County middle school as an awards ceremony was being held inside. 

Roderick Watson was charged with murder in the second degree with a firearm after the incident that unfolded at North Marion Middle School in Citra shortly after 6 p.m. He was taken into custody after the shooting and remains in custody at the Marion County Jail without bond, according to the Marion County Sheriff's Office. 

The victim was identified as 32-year-old Joseph James Juarez Coles. 

Roderick Watson was arrested and charged with second degree murder with a firearm on May 22, 2024. (Photo: Marion County Sheriff's Office)

Watson and Juarez Coles both attended the end-of-the-school-year ceremony, according to an arrest affidavit. Watson went with his fiancée, who is also the mother of Juarez Coles' three children. Two of those children attend North Marion Middle School, deputies said. The school was packed with students, parents and staff 

The woman, Watson and Juarez Coles were in the parking lot trying to figure out who the kids would be going home with, the affidavit said. Juarez Coles said he wanted to take the kids with him, but their mother said no since they still had a couple of days left of the school year, which ends on Friday. 

"Oh, hell no!" a witness heard Watson yell in the parking lot. 

This escalated into an argument, according to witnesses.

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"(A witness) advised he heard a loud bang at which time he ushered his children to run away as he looked up towards the altercation to see (Watson) grabbing (Juarez Coles) by the back of his neck and shooting him several times as they went to the ground," a witness told deputies, according to the affidavit. This witness did not personally know any of the people involved, but was standing within several feet of where the alleged shooting happened. 

(FOX 35 Orlando)

A 16-year-old girl told deputies that she saw Watson shoot Juarez Coles at "point-blank" range after chasing him down and grabbing the back of his neck, the affidavit said. 

Another witness – a parent who didn't want to be named – told FOX 35's Hannah Mackenzie that she and her children were feet away from the gunfire. She said she grabbed her daughters and ran for cover to their car. 

No students were involved, a spokesperson for Marion County Public Schools said in a statement to FOX 35 on Wednesday. 

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Watson then allegedly "beat the victim's lifeless body" with his fists while the man laid unconscious on the ground, according to deputies. Watson had injuries and suspected blood on his shorts consistent with doing so, the affidavit added. 

(FOX 35 Orlando)

Juarez Coles was transported to a local hospital, where he soon after died from his injuries. Detectives said he had six gunshot wounds to his body, in his abdomen, under his armpit, right bicep, collar bone, middle back and upper back, according to the affidavit.

The affidavit also said that Watson showed "no remorse" about the shooting and seemed "happy about what he did" as he "walked around with a smile on his face."

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Detectives said they found six spent 9mm handgun shell casings in the parking lot and also found a silver-colored handgun in Watson's car. His fiancée told deputies that the gun was hers, and it's usually kept in her vehicle, the affidavit said. 

Photo credit: FOX 35

"I shot him," Watson reportedly told a school guidance counselor who responded to the shooting scene, the affidavit said. 

"I'm the shooter," he said to deputies as he was being detained, the affidavit added. He surrendered peacefully to deputies, according to the sheriff's office. 

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Watson was transported to the sheriff's office's operations center, where he "spontaneously uttered" that he shot Juarez Coles in self-defense. Deputies said, however, that there was no evidence that he was acting in self-defense, according to the affidavit. 

Photo credit: FOX 35 

Additionally, deputies said Watson's actions "demonstrated a depraved mind without regard for human life as there was multiple parents and children around," the affidavit said. 

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Marion County Sheriff Billy Woods issued the following statement after the alleged shooting:

"A senseless homicide is always upsetting to each of us. But, in this instance, 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."

Marion County Sheriff's Office Lt. Paul Bloom said that even though there is no threat to the public, additional law enforcement will be at the school over the next few days as the school year comes to an end.