Man killed at bail bonds business 'has gone beyond to help people'

Longtime friend reflects on life of James Cole

By Brianna Volz - Web producer, Amanda Castro - Reporter/Anchor, Troy Campbell - Reporter

ORLANDO, Fla. - Authorities are investigating after a man was found shot to death at an Orlando business, the Orange County Sheriff's Office said.

Deputies said the shooting happened Friday afternoon at a bail bonds business on Michigan Street.

Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Jane Watrel said authorities received a 911 call at about 1:20 p.m. from a woman who said she could not get in contact with her loved one, James Cole.

When deputies arrived at the business, they found 53-year-old Cole dead inside, officials said.

Watrel said the investigation is still in its early stages, but it appears that the victim was targeted for an unknown reason.

"Unfortunately, this is a tragedy. We found him dead," Watrel said.

It is not known how many people were involved in the shooting. No arrests have been made.

Detectives were at the scene collecting evidence and canvassing the neighborhood. Watrel said no one in the area reported hearing gunshots.

"We got the call around 1:20 p.m., but we do not know when the actual incident happened," Watrel said.

People who know the victim described him as a great man and said he loved his family.

Michael Barrington said Monday that he and Cole had been acquainted since the 1990s. The two worked together as bail bond agents and quickly formed a friendship.

"He has gone beyond to help people," Barrington said. "(He would) give them food (or) give them money if they needed. If they were short, he'd get food for their family. I've seen it. I've watched it and I'm like, 'Who would do that to such a guy?'" 

Barrington said he was driving past Cole's office Friday afternoon when he saw the commotion. 

"I saw the police lights and, as I got close, I saw the yellow tape," he said. "I was like, 'Oh my goodness, what happened?' You know -- and (immediately), I started making phone calls, and that's when I found out."

Barrington said Cole leaves behind a wife and three sons. 

"... They are grieving really hard. I talked to (his wife) today. She just asked that everybody kind of give her space and let her grieve," Barrington said.

Deputies on Saturday released a picture of a man they are calling a person of interest in Cole's death. The man seen in the photo was accompanied by a woman and the two may have fled in a silver sedan moments after Cole was killed, deputies said.

Anyone with information is urged to call Crimeline at 800-423-8477 and could be eligible for a reward of up to $5,000.

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