The way his friends tell it, Anesson Joseph didn't do drugs, was never violent and didn't have any mental issues.
Those who knew the 28-year-old man authorities say stripped off his clothes and bit a teen's face before being shot by deputies are still trying to make sense of the bizarre behavior that ultimately led to his death Tuesday near Delray Beach.
They say it just doesn't add up. The man cops are describing doesn't sound anything like the caring, mild-mannered "gentle giant" they called Ano. They say the man they knew kept everyone else out of trouble, focused on school and his dreams of working in video production and was adored by a close friend's young son, who he babysat and called his "little nephew."
"He didn't deserve to die this way," said friend Michael Fields, 25. "And he doesn't deserve to be remembered this way."
Joseph's family has hired an attorney to look into whether Palm Beach County Sheriff's deputies were right to fire three shots at him when he wasn't armed. If they had taken other steps to subdue him, attorney Byrnes Guillaume said, maybe he'd still be alive.
Sheriff Ric Bradshaw has said deputies' actions likely prevented other people from getting hurt. The agency said authorities tried to reason with Joseph and tased him before shooting him. An eyewitness to the shooting said the Taser missed Joseph.
Authorities are still investigating the strange chain of events that unfolded around 8:30 p.m. Tuesday on South Military Trail north of Lake Ida Road. Joseph, they say, went on a wild rampage and injured three people.
One was retired New York City police officer Douglas Kozlik, who told Sun Sentinel news partner CBS12 he was brutally beaten by Joseph, who was still wearing clothes at that point. Another was a 10-year-old boy who was hurt while hurrying under a fence to escape. And the third was 18-year-old Tony Grein, whose face Joseph bit.
To Joseph's distraught friends and family, none of it makes any sense. Joseph was "very intelligent," had no criminal record, worked for eight years at the Starbucks in West Palm Beach's CityPlace and was taking classes at Palm Beach State College. He wasn't angry or confrontational. He kept a tight-knit group of friends he'd known since attending Conniston Middle School in West Palm Beach.
The family is shocked and hurt, Guillaume said. It's hard for them to hear Joseph described as a monster.
"It's totally unexpected, totally not within their son's character to do any of this," he said. "What's being portrayed in the media, by police – it's completely different than the person that they knew.
What Joseph was doing in the hours leading up to the attacks is not known. He had recently quit Starbucks, relocated from West Palm Beach to the Delray Beach area and moved in with his sister. He wanted to get a fresh start and focus on school, friends said.
Joseph had also put a lot of effort into getting in shape and had shed 40 pounds. He spent time at the gym and even walked home from work to get extra exercise.
Bradshaw told media he believed drugs were involved, saying Joseph was "on something." But multiple friends told the Sun Sentinel that Joseph didn't use drugs. They said it's impossible to believe he'd experiment with substances.
Knowing that, they've been struggling to find an explanation. Several of them wondered if he was somehow drugged.
But even as they search for answers, Joseph's friends say they're still in disbelief.
"I don't want to believe it," said Daniel Meant, 26. "I'm waiting on a phone call or a text from him telling me, 'Hey, did you see what they're trying to say about me? I'm not dead. You see the stuff they're saying in the news about me? I don't know who they got me confused with.' That's what I'm waiting on."
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