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'I look at is as sending love': Family of GFS shooting victim holds balloon release

Five days after a terrible tragedy, dozens came together to honor the life of 24-year-old Charles Puckett Jr., after he was fatally shot Feb. 20.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — It's said if you love something, let it go—but when that something is someone—letting go becomes unfathomable.

It's a challenge facing family and friends of Charles E. Puckett Jr. The father of three was shot and killed while leaving work, Monday, at the Gordon Food Service distribution center in Shepherdsville.

As Puckett's family grapples with an unthinkable loss, they gathered for a balloon release, Saturday, to honor Puckett's life and raise his spirits high.

"I look at it as sending love," Aisha Ashby, Puckett's mother, said. "He was a good-spirited person. He had a real light to him." 

As hundreds of balloons drifted into the sky, dozens watched on, offering embrace to the family.

Five days ago, Puckett went to work at the Gordon Food Service distribution center in Shepherdsville, but never returned home.

Police say Corey Rowland, a former friend of Puckett's, shot him 17 times, as he walked to his car after a shift.

Rowland has been charged with murder, wanton endangerment-first degree and assault-first degree. 

He made his first court appearance Tuesday and a judge set his bond at $1.5 million.

"For this to happen—you just never think this would happen," Puckett's father and namesake, Charles Puckett Sr. said. "That was my son, my only son, my everything. I can't [get that] out of my head."

Puckett's family is just beginning to process a loss they never saw coming.

"It's devastating. I wake up every day, and I know he's not going to be there. I [catch] myself watching the door, waiting for him. It's like a prolonged devastation," Ashby said.

Ashby remembers her son as a leader and someone who always put others first.

"I was blessed to have had him for the 24 years that I did," she said. 

As grief takes over, Puckett's family is turning their attention to justice.

"For somebody to do that to him, I hope [Rowland] gets exactly what he deserves," Puckett Sr. said. "He's going to get what he deserves." 

Puckett, a devoted father, leaves behind three kids: a 3-month-old daughter named Harmony, 3-year-old son named Charles III and a 4-year-old son named Mitchell.

Bri'ana Price, Puckett's girlfriend, is also waiting on justice.

"[Rowland] took him a day before my son's birthday. My son just turned 3  years old the day after [the shooting]," Price said. "He had a lot to live for."

But even in death, Puckett's family says, he'll live on in his children.

A representative for GFS released a statement, Tuesday, following the incident. 

"Based on the facts as we know them, an isolated incident between two employees of an on-site vendor occurred at approximately 9:30 p.m. EST, on Monday, Feb. 20, in a contractor parking lot at our Gordon Food Service Shepherdsville Distribution Center.

The incident escalated resulting in gunfire and the tragic death of one individual, and the hospitalization of another. Our hearts are with the victims and we are thankful for the quick action of local law enforcement that brought the alleged shooter into custody.

No Gordon Food Service employees were involved in the incident. All involved were employed by a third-party that provides supplemental labor for our distribution center operations. Our local team is focused on managing the situation and is working closely with local authorities through their investigation.

The safety of our team members is of our utmost concern and out of an abundance of caution, we are increasing the presence of our onsite security team. We are also providing our team members with resources they can use to support their mental health and well-being."

Contact reporter Connor Steffen at csteffen@whas11.com or on FacebookTwitter or Instagram.  

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