A talented Lexington high school football player captured some college scouts' interests and earned the respect of teachers and students who said he often reached out to others, including new and special-needs kids.
Now he's dead at 18 after an unexplained shooting at an apartment building in the city.
Patrick Puckett, a starting linebacker for Bryan Station who transferred to Henry Clay High School in the spring, died in the Wednesday night shooting off Ryan Circle, his mother, Emma, said Thursday. Police have no suspects.
Emma Puckett, Patrick's grandmother Debbie Smith, his sister Jasmine Puckett and his uncle Timothy Puckett told the Herald-Leader that they didn't know what led to the shooting.
Patrick was going to visit friends Wednesday night, Emma Puckett said, but she didn't know why he was at Ryan Circle. She was notified about 12:30 a.m. Thursday that he had been shot to death, she said.
Smith said her grandson, "a gentle giant," didn't go looking for trouble or cause problems.
"He was a wonderful kid," Timothy Puckett said. "He would give you the shirt off his back. He had the biggest heart. He would do anything for anybody. He loved his mother more than anything."
Bryan Station Athletics Director Chad Luhman said Patrick Puckett, 18, was a two-year starter for the Defenders. Luhman said Puckett had transferred from Bryan Station to Henry Clay right after spring break this year. He was a junior, his family said.
Luhman said Puckett was a "fun-loving kid who got along with everybody. He was one of those kids you couldn't help but love. He was a great kid to have around."
Bryan Station observed a moment of silence for Puckett during school Thursday morning, Luhman said.
A team of counselors was made available on campus Thursday to students and staff, Bryan Station High Administrative Dean Drew McCoy said.
"As much as he was liked by students, he was equally or more so liked by faculty. Every teacher knew him, whether they had him or not," McCoy said.
The news cast a pall on graduation activities, McCoy said.
Seniors who knew Puckett "had to go through graduation practice, unfortunately, with a very heavy heart," he said.
McCoy praised Puckett's behavior at Bryan Station.
"He was one of those kids who never had a down day," McCoy said. "He always had a smile on his face. ... He'd shake your hand, say hi to you, would ask about my wife and my kids. If there was a special-needs kid that needed assistance, Patrick was always talking to them and giving them high-fives."
"He was a good kid, a good-hearted kid," Bryan Station football coach Frank Parks said. "Anytime someone new came in, he'd make them feel welcome."
Parks said Puckett had planned to play football for the Blue Devils in his senior year.
College scouts had contacted the teen, relatives said.
"He really had a future in college and in football," Emma Puckett said.
Police had interviewed several witnesses by Thursday afternoon, police spokeswoman Sherelle Roberts said. The Fayette County coroner's office said Puckett died of a gunshot to the torso shortly after he was taken to University of Kentucky Chandler Hospital.
Police and paramedics found Puckett when they responded to 2824 Ryan Circle about 8 p.m. Wednesday for a report of an unresponsive man.
Puckett was lying in the common area of one of the two-story brick apartment complexes that dot Ryan Circle off North Mount Tabor Road, Lt. Dean Marcum said previously.
Building resident Lorena Raymond said she heard loud banging downstairs about 8 p.m. She didn't hear voices, just loud noises that sounded like a fight, Raymond said Thursday.
She went downstairs after the noise subsided and saw Puckett lying in the building's doorway. Other neighbors also had found him and called police.
The crime is unusual for the area, Raymond said.
"It is usually a quiet neighborhood; this is a tad on the scary side," she said.
Puckett's family said funeral arrangements were pending.
"He was loved by many and he will be missed by many," said Jasmine Puckett, Patrick Puckett's older sister.
Police are asking that anyone with information about the case contact them at (859) 258-3600.