BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - A sometimes broken man, singing through life's challenges, is a pretty accurate way to describe 59-year-old Bruce Cofield.
Not much is known about the first victim, an apparent homeless man, gunned down on Florida Blvd. a week ago in what police believe was one of two racially motivated slayings in Baton Rouge.
While many may not know him, a Canadian man, Tim Vining says he is like family. "We were friends. We were brothers and in my house. We don't use that lightly," said Vining.
Vining invited Cofield into his home to live for several brief stints when he lived in the Capital City between 1993 and 2001.
"Bruce was there off and on during that time," Vining added.
It was an experiment of sorts that he called the Solidarity House. Bruce was one of roughly 15 men on the fringe of society Vining would allow to call his Laurel St. house a home. He describes it as a group of men from different races and social statuses just getting through life together.
"We wanted to live together in harmony, at least within our house, and thought that we could break those barriers," said Vining. "We knew that when we walked out of that house, we were in a racist society, and so we really tried to develop that sense of community."
He says Cofield was the heart and soul of that community.
"Sure, he may seem anonymous to a lot of people and many people don't know him, but we got to know a guy who laughed with us and who had a lot of compassion," Vining added.
It's why when he heard the man, his friend with a heart of gold, was taken away in such a violent manner, he said he was paralyzed. "When I saw the name of the person who was killed, we cried," he added. "He's one of those guys this world needs a lot more of and when he was killed in an act of hatred, I was left numb and speechless."
He does not want to stay silent any longer. Vining says if in fact it's proven the suspected gunman acted out of hate, Vining says he wants justice, but more importantly, he wants people to come together and stand against hate.
"Bruce stood out," Vining said. "We remember him and I hope he's never forgotten, because Bruce's life is as valuable as any other life."
It's an important message Vining says even a homeless man people might not know can teach them.