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Jerome “Ronie” Roberts became a neighborhood legend after the New Orleans dad rescued a toddler from a neighbor’s home when it caught fire in 2017. Now, nearly four years later, his family is grieving his death.
Roberts was found face down and shot to death on a service road in New Orleans East around 5:35 a.m. on Monday. He had multiple gunshot wounds, police said, and was pronounced dead at the scene.
“They took a big piece of our family away from us,” Tyiesha Broadway told the Times-Picayune. “Our family will never be the same.”
No arrests have been made in the 34-year-old’s apparent murder. Police haven’t released a possible motive and the investigation into his death is ongoing.
Years ago, Roberts had attained local fame after he saved a young boy from a burning building.
On June 22, 2017, Roberts saw smoke billowing from a home and heard children crying for help two doors down from his house. He told local news that he'd learned a three-year-old boy was trapped somewhere inside.
“Once I heard there was a kid in there…I wasn’t worried about the fire,” Roberts told WWL-TV. “If somebody’s life needs to be saved, I’ll jump in and help if I could.”
Holding a fire extinguisher, Roberts and another neighbor ran inside — twice — before ultimately bringing the stranded toddler to safety.
“I’d do it again,” he told the station. “I’d do it every day to save somebody’s children.”
Afterward, he was deemed a hero by first responders, neighbors, and local media.
“He just thought it was the right thing to do,” Broadway said.
Roberts's body was found about six miles away from where the blaze broke out.
He was an offshore worker, father of three, and was engaged to be married. The man was a “loving” father with a “heart of gold,” relatives said.
“That’s the one that everybody knew — that Jerome,” his sister, Matisha Roberts, told WWL-TV. “He never was a bad person. He would give you his last because he knew he would get it right back.”
Roberts would have celebrated his 35th birthday on March 14, his relatives said. Instead, they are making funeral arrangements.
“You just don’t know the pain,” his mother, Joyce Roberts, told WWL-TV.
Roberts’ sudden death comes on the heels of a separate family tragedy.
His younger brother, Benny Roberts, died only six months ago. The 33-year-old was gunned down on Aug. 5, according to the Times-Picayune. The accused shooter was supposedly romantically entangled with the mother of Benny Roberts’ child.
Now, Joyce Roberts is mourning the death of two sons.
“It’s ridiculous, it’s ridiculous,” she said. “You don’t know who’s going to be next. it’s ridiculous in New Orleans.”
The deaths of both men also come amid a reversed trend in New Orleans; the city’s homicide rate went up last year for the first time in four years, spiking 87 percent compared to 2019.
New Orleans Police Department didn't immediately respond to requests for comment on the case on Thursday.
Anyone with information related to Roberts’ suspected murder is urged to contact New Orleans homicide detectives at 504-658-5300 or by submitting an anonymous tip by calling Crimestoppers at 504-822-1111 or 1-877-903-STOP.
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