DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. — Sixty-year-old Ronald Hodge grew up with eight siblings. They were told by their father, who was in the Army, to make the "Hodge" name proud. That message was then passed onto Ronald's son, Ryan Hodge, who said his father did more than make that family name proud.
"The way he's touched people and made them feel good about themselves, you know, and he didn't have everything that everybody else had and he found his happy place. Every time I would talk to him, he always seemed happy," Ryan said.
In fact, he said his father died saving a woman.
"It was a man and a woman having a disagreement and he saw this and he intervened," Ryan explained. "It gave me peace, because I believe that I would have done the same thing. I honestly believe that most men that are worth anything would not allow it."
Ryan said the man involved in that disagreement was his father's killer. According to DeKalb County Police, 62-year-old Jurrell Bethel turned himself in and is charged with malice murder. Ryan said Bethel shot his father in the head.
"I'm sure that guy didn't wake up that morning to say, 'I'm about to go kill someone.' I understand there's a possibility, but it happened. And you know, what? Unfortunately, you took somebody's friend and family member and a loved one that a lot of people adored. You have to pay, you have to be held accountable. You have to pay the price for that. And he's gonna," Ryan added.
Ronald was born in New York City but moved to Gary, Indiana with his family after his father retired from the Army.
In high school there, he met Ryan's mom, and Ronald became a father at 16 years old. Ryan's mom was 15.
Ryan explained his father eventually went to Indiana University on a football scholarship, with Lee Corso as his coach. He later went to work as a regional manager for Toys R Us and Kentucky Fried Chicken, bouncing between Houston and Atlanta.
Ryan added that when his father was a manager years ago, before moving to Atlanta, he witnessed another manager get shot to death.
"He never recovered from it. He always felt some guilt. I don't know if it was survivor's remorse, but he felt a lot of guilt," Ryan said.
To this day, he encounters people who knew his father, whether through his football team or work.
Ryan said his father most recently worked at a braid shop in DeKalb County and the Valero gas station where he was shot Tuesday.
"That's the one thing in life that people are trying to get to, is a happy place. And he found a happy place. It may not be what we consider happy or what makes us happy, but he was happy," Ryan said. "It's a proud feeling. It's a good feeling when you come from a lineage of people who have done well."
Ryan wants people to put guns down, and have discussions face to face without any weapons.
"You might make a person feel a whole lot better by smiling and saying, 'Hi, good morning, or thank you.' I tried to be that light and I realized that that was my grandfather. That was my dad. And that's me, and hopefully, prayerfully my daughter's doing the same thing," Ryan added.