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West St. John High mourns loss of player-turned-coach

EDGARD, LA (WVUE) -

A small west bank campus is reeling after the murder of a player-turned-coach.

Juan Joseph was gunned down early Sunday morning outside a Baton Rouge bar, leaving a void on a campus. He was one of West St John High School's favorite sons.

"We kept asking ourselves why, why such a good guy," said West St. John head coach Robert Valdez.

Quarterback coach Joseph was shot early Sunday morning outside a bar near College Drive and I-10.

"This was a senseless crime that occurred. Individuals that were exchanging words verbally, and then you escalate to not a fist fight, but pulling out guns and shooting," said Corporal L'Jean Mckneely with the Baton Rouge Police Department.

Joseph was a fixture at the Edgard campus, having quarterbacked the rams to two state championships in 2003 and 2004. He went on to become a quarterback at Millsaps, where he won top honors before moving on to pro ball. He returned to coach at his alma mater three years ago.

"A tremendous guy, and a positive individual who would lighten up a room every time he walked in," said Valdez.

Joseph's death stunned students at the West St. John campus, but especially players, who are competing this weekend in the state playoffs. Grief counselors were at the school Monday.

"Kinda talking what kind of person he was, and what he meant to them." said Valdez.

Joseph's murder comes on the heels of one of the biggest celebrations ever held  at West St. John high just last week. It was named the 50th best school in the nation in closing the achievement gap by preparing students for college.

"They looked at graduation rate, college graduation rate, ACT scores, things like that," said Assistant Principal Genevieve Gomez.

As the students attempt to move on, teachers hope the tragedy provides a lesson.

"If there's anything that can come from this, we can find ways of have better conflict resolution than through violence," said Valdez.

Joseph leaves behind an expectant wife and a 4-year-old daughter. He was in Baton Rouge to watch one of his former players compete in the Southern University game. He and a few friends went out afterward, when the shooting occurred.

Baton Rouge police report few leads in the case.

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