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Family, friends honor Paso Robles man believed killed by active shooter

Posted at 3:29 PM, Jun 18, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-19 00:56:37-04

Family and friends are remembering a Paso Robles man killed a little over a week ago.

They gathered at the railroad tracks Thursday morning where James Watson, 58, was found near the Amtrak Station at 8th and Pine streets in Paso Robles the morning of June 10.

The San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's Office said he was shot in the head at close proximity.

Investigators believe the 58-year-old was killed by Mason James Lira, 26, the same morning Lira ambushed the Paso Robles Police Department and four law enforcement officers were shot over two days.

Flowers and Pepsi cans, Watson’s favorite drink, were placed near the scene of the crime eight days after Watson died.

“James was a wonderful gentleman. He was a kind, loving person. He would do anything to help anybody,” said Alfred Silva, Watson’s brother-in-law. “He said, “You’re my brother-in-law and you’re sick and if you need anything, you let me know and I'll go to the store and get it for you’.”

Family members describe Watson as an all-around nice guy.

“He liked being around people and that was just who he was,” Silva said.

Niece Sarah Riggs said, “He was always happy. I’m going to miss that the most.”

Watson moved from Kentucky at a young age to Paso Robles where he spent his life.

He went to Paso Robles High School and had one child, Johnny.

“He would always tell me, ‘That's my boy’ when I would do things that would make him happy,” Johnny Watson said.

The elder Watson worked as a dishwasher for 25 years at Wilson's Lanes and Big Bubba's Bad BBQ.

“He did what he loved to do,” Johnny Watson said. “Just learning from him and his work ethic and the way he lived life. I learned a lot.”

Family members also learned Watson couldn't be without his favorite drink.

“Ya, James, he had to have his Pepsi,” Johnny Watson said.

There was a toast to Watson Thursday morning before balloons were released into the sky.

“I want to thank the officers, law enforcement of every agency that came together to capture Lira and do what they needed to do to protect our community. Me and my family don't hold no grudges against his parents. They also lost a son, too,” Johnny Watson said.

The Watson family is inviting the community to First Baptist Church in Paso Robles Monday, June 22 at 10 a.m. where they will lay Watson to rest.

Investigators are still trying to determine the motive between last week's shooting spree.