Rodney Seaton made friends wherever he went because he offered compassion and help to everyone he encountered, according to his grieving family.
"He had a love for people," his mother, Carolyn Seaton, told York County Judge Thomas H. Kelley VI during Friday's sentencing for one of the men responsible for his murder. "That's just who he was."
Seaton, 48, of York City, was struck by a bullet that went through his arm and into his chest as he and several friends were walking through the city at 11:57 p.m. Dec. 23, 2012, York City Police have said.
The man who fired the fatal bullet has so far not been charged. Chief deputy prosecutor Tim Barker said police know the shooter's identity but need more evidence to charge him; he urged people with information to call police.
Drive-by shooting: Accomplice Dominick Breeland was behind the wheel during the drive-by shooting, during which the shooter fired from the passenger seat.
Also struck was Vincent Howze, 58, who still has a bullet lodged against his spine, according to Barker.
Seaton and adult son Jeremy Seaton, along with Howze and adult son Garad Howze, and Lamar Deshields were walking to a local bar and stopped at Li's Kitchen in the 200 block of West Market Street to buy cigarettes.
Breeland and the shooter drove past the group a couple times in a borrowed Saab before the gunman fired at the men, apparently over nothing more than a perceived slight, Barker confirmed.
Saved son's life: True to character, Rodney Seaton pushed his son out of the way and took the bullet instead, according to Jeremy Seaton, who told The York Dispatch, "He saved my life."
Somehow, the Saab's registration and insurance information wound up on the ground at the homicide scene, which city Detective First Class Jeff Spence called an act of God. That information led investigators to arrest Breeland days after the shooting.
Breeland, 22, of South Pershing Avenue, pleaded guilty Friday to third-degree murder and four counts of aggravated assault.
As part of his negotiated plea agreement, he was sentenced to 30 to 60 years in state prison and ordered to pay more than $15,300 in restitution.
Being a man: He hung his head and nodded as members of the Seaton family spoke in court about Rodney Seaton, and how he could have taught Breeland much about being a man. Breeland apologized to the Seaton family.
Judge Kelley told the defendant his apology would mean more to the family if Breeland was willing to tell police the shooter's name.
"Amen," Vincent Howze said from the back of the courtroom.
"He better," Breeland's own grandmother added.
Defense attorney Scott McCabe said his client is afraid for his own safety and his family's safety.
The victim: Rodney Seaton's friends and family packed the prosecution side of Courtroom No. 6 for Friday's proceeding.
Daughters Shelby Seaton and Shonda McFadden spoke about how much their father loved his children, and about how dedicated he was to being a good dad to them.
"He taught me a lot of core values," McFadden said. "He was a great dad."
Shelby Seaton said he once told her, "I already lived my life. I'm here for you guys."
"I wish it was a love everyone could experience," she said, adding that she wondered whether Breeland had that kind of father growing up.
Shelby Seaton, a photographer, told the judge her father enjoyed taking photos of people he met. She now does the same thing.
"I feel a sense of my dad in that," she said.
'He walked tall': Her mother, Stephanie Seaton, said she can't fill the void her ex-husband's death left in the lives of their four children.
"He was pretty confident. ... He walked tall ... he held his head high," she said. "Rodney was a kindhearted person. Anybody he encountered, he had an impact on them."
Shelby Seaton read aloud in court a letter from her uncle, Edward Lamont Seaton, who wrote, "He showed me it's OK for a man to have passion and compassion. ... He showed me sacrifice. ... My brother was my protector."
— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at email@example.com.