Sebastien Jean-Jacques was trying to help a friend in need on the fateful night Travis Rudolph allegedly opened fire on him and three other men in Lake Park, his mother said.
Family members and friends have identified Jean-Jacques, a local college student who had just celebrated his 21st birthday, as the man killed in the April 7 shooting that landed Rudolph, a former Florida State football star, in jail on murder charges. Another person was wounded in the shooting.
During last month’s deadly encounter, Rudolph went back into his home, grabbed a “rifle” and opened fire on the car, authorities say.
Jean-Jacques’ family broke their silence about the shooting, speaking for the first time Monday about the young man who died.
“The type of person [Jean-Jacques] was, he would go and help a friend,” Jean-Jacques’ mother, Izabelle, told the South Florida Sun Sentinel in an exclusive interview. “And this is really what made him go to that location that night. A friend needed help and Sebastien never liked conflict. He always wanted to make peace.
“He got killed doing what he does: making peace.”
The Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office hasn’t released the name of the shooting victims, citing privacy laws, or explained what led to the violent encounter.
Jean-Jacques, a Palm Beach County native, attended Palm Beach Central High, where he played on the school’s football team at wide receiver and safety. Most recently, Jean-Jacques was attending Palm Beach State College and had plans to travel to France this summer to study international business, his sister, Dominique, said.
The man, along with Jean-Jacques and two other people, then went to Rudolph’s Lake Park home, the arrest report said.
Rudolph exited the house and was “immediately combative and confrontational,” according to the arrest report.
Fighting broke out for several minutes before the four men got back into their car to leave, the arrest report said.
Jean-Jacques was described by friends as having a great, upbeat attitude and being an “extremely loyal friend.”
Known to his friends as “The Don,” Jean-Jacques had a passion for music and was considered “extremely cultured and educated,” and a “trendsetter,” said Tyler Freeman, who grew up in the same neighborhood as Jean-Jacques and played football with him at Palm Beach Central.
The two remained close friends after high school and Freeman said he was helping Jean-Jacques record a music project prior to his death.
“He was one of the wisest, smartest people I know,” Freeman said. “He’s not a kid who’s out there on the streets; not a violent kid. He’s a good kid.”
Jean-Jacques “would go and put himself in the line of fire like that for his friends,” he said. “His friends are like his family to him.”
Jean-Jacques left a lasting impression on those he touched, evidenced by the outpouring of support from the community following his death.
Jean-Jacques’ sister, Dominique, said over 400 people showed up outside their home for a candlelight vigil the night after he was killed. A GoFundMe page raised over $24,000 from hundreds of donors to cover funeral expenses.
“The amount of people who have come up to either myself or my mom to say, ‘Sebastien was his best friend,’” Jean-Jacques’ sister, Dominique, said. “I mean, this kid had well over 50 best friends.
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“He was just that person. He always made people feel like the most important person that there was. There wasn’t a time you could call him and he wouldn’t come through.”
Those who knew him in high school remembered him as having a “personality that brightened the room.”
Kemar Downer, a former football standout at Palm Beach Central, was a few years older than Jean-Jacques, but said he was like a “younger brother.”
Downer said Jean-Jacques was the kind of person who was always supportive and lifted people up with his high-tempo attitude. Jean-Jacques also was known for looking sharp whenever he went out.
“He was big on dressing up and stuff like that,” Downer said. “He was always coming to school nice and clean and fit and presentable. He was like a sneaker-head, one of those guys. His personality brightened up the room.”