Bartlett Yancey football lineman Josh Rone, who was shot and killed Saturday night while attending a county fair near Danville, Va., was remembered over the weekend as a “caring kid” with a “huge personality” who had begun to realize his potential and was making big strides.
“He was already one of the most popular kids on campus,” said head coach Joshua Brumfield. “Just so full of life.”
Rone, a junior, had “lacked focus” earlier in high school, but was beginning to realize that sports could open doors, his coach said. While he was not yet on college recruiters’ radars because he’d sat out last year’s Covid-altered season, as an athletic 300 pounder on a 4-0 team, it was just a matter of time.
“He had really turned the corner academically and realized he could actually go to college and play football,” Brumfield said. “He was getting better in every way every day on and off the field. I was just so amazed to see him improve.”
The Pittsylvania (Va.) County Sheriff’s Dept. had not made an arrest as of mid day Tuesday. “We’re just following up on every lead that we can,” said Capt. Cory Webb.
Rone’s mother Christina Gomes said detectives are staying in touch with her as their investigation progresses.
“He didn’t deserve this,” she said of her son. “I just want justice for Josh.”
Brumfield received a call shortly after Saturday night’s shooting and made his way to the Danville hospital where Rone had been taken.
“By the time I got there there was a big portion of the football team over there,” Brumfield said.
After disruptions caused by Covid, said Gomes, her son, like many others, had been looking forward to the week-long fair at the fairgrounds in Ringgold, Va.
“He was so excited,” she said.
Gomes said her understanding of events leading up to the shooting unfolded as follows: Shortly before closing Saturday night “a group of guys” jumped one of her son’s friends. Seeing him outnumbered in the fight, her son stepped in to help.
“As they were leaving he ended up getting shot in the back,” Gomes said. (Webb declined to comment on circumstances surrounding the shooting.)
The Danville-Pittsylvania County Fair posted a statement on Facebook Sunday reading in part: “Last night a fight broke out in the parking lot that ended in a young man losing his life to a senseless act of gun violence.”
It further read: “We are deeply saddened by last night’s events, and our prayers go out to the young man’s family.”
Brumfield, who had coached Rone at Dillard Middle School and had a close relationship with him, noted that “his final act showed his character in him trying to help someone else.”
Saturday night’s events, which Gomes said has left her with “the worse pain I’ve ever had in my life,” has put her in league with a growing legion of others whose lives have been similarly shattered.
“It has broken my heart when I see in the news all these other mothers going through it,” she said. “Now that I’m going through it, it’s just really tough.”
Her son, she said, “had a big heart. He would do anything for anybody. He touched a lot of people. He had a very bright future ahead of him.”
He worked at Old Dutch Galaxy Food Center on West Main Street in Danville where, Gomes said, “his manager just loved him.”
Now he’s gone.
“It’s not even safe any more to let my kids go anywhere to enjoy themselves,” she said.
As far as Rone’s death’s affect on the team’s schedule, his older brother, Micah, a senior who was also on the team, made his thoughts clear.
He was “adamant that he wants to play, wants us to play,” Brumfield said of Micah, who had a close bond with his younger brother. “He was just adamant that he wants to continue to move forward. We were going to go with what ever he wanted.”
A GoFundMe page set up to raise $8,000 toward Rone’s funeral expenses had met its goal by Tuesday morning. A total 259 donors contributed.
Pittsylvania (Va.) County Crime Stoppers (800-791-0044) is offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction in the case.