JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A veteran shot and killed Monday afternoon when he interrupted a burglary at his Northside home will be remembered by his friends from around the world as a loving man who was dedicated to his country.
Jacksonville Sheriff's Office Lt. Steve Gallaher said 50-year-old Kyle Simpson returned to his home on Native Dancer Court about 2:30 p.m. Monday and walked in on Maleek Williams, 19, and another man burglarizing his home.
Williams is charged with murder and armed burglary, police said.
Simpson's family and friends said he was a veteran of over 24 years in the U.S. Army and had been stationed in Germany.
Bruce Lee shared memories of his friend, describing Simpson as an unforgettable man.
"The most loving, caring, patriotic person that one person would ever have the privilege of meeting," Lee said.
Lee told News4Jax Tuesday that he was married to a soldier who was stationed in Germany with Simpson, and said they became fast friends during their time in Europe.
"From the first day I met him, I wasn't just an average Joe off the street. I was family. He had just met me. He didn't know me from Adam. It didn't matter. He treated every single person that crossed his path like family," Lee said.
Lee, who know lives in Kentucky, said he had just spoken to Simpson the night before he was killed. The two were planning a trip to the Daytona 500 in a few weeks.
"That man touched every life that came in his path. If it was for five minutes, or if it was for 17 years, you were just as much his family in five minutes as you were in 17 years," Lee said. "It's devastating."
Joaquin Cervantes, who was stationed in Germany with Simpson during their time in the Army, said his friend's life was filled with purpose.
"Kyle was bigger than life and he brought everybody up, from whatever situation any other might have been in, but he was there no matter what was going on in his life. He was a big, bright light for everybody," Cevantes said. "He was one of those leaders that always paid careful attention to all soldiers. No matter what your background as a soldier, he knew exactly how to approach that soldier, how to guide them, mentor them."
Cervantes said Simpson had recently remarried and the couple hadn't even made it it to their second anniversary.
Even with the pain of what happened, Cervantes now plans to move forward by remembering the life his friend lived and the legacy he leaves behind.
"Kyle was a son, a father, a grandfather, a loving husband and he was a true warrior," he said. "He was the epitome of what an American should be."
News4Jax also spoke with Simpson's nephew over the phone. He said most of Simpson's family members live in upstate New York and they have been in contact with investigators.
His nephew said the family still reeling from what happened and no funeral arrangements had been made as of Tuesday evening.
A GoFundMe account has been set up for Simpson's widow. Many of his friends have posted comments on the page.
“It's so sad he can go to war, not get injured, but come home and get shot and left for dead," Simpson's nephew, Brandon Engle, wrote. "It blows me away.”
Steve Edmondson, who was stationed with Simpson, wrote that he was a great "mentor and leader to countless soldiers."