Monica Hernandez / Eyewitness News
JEFFERSON, La. -- A longtime friend created a makeshift memorial in a Terrytown neighborhood Friday while stunned family members in Metairie tried to comprehend what happened.
William L. Kerner IV, 52, was gunned down on the job just after nine o'clock Friday morning.
“He's my best friend and he's my hero, he really is,” said Kerner's younger sister, Sheree. "And I'm going to miss him, and I'm going to love him forever."
Kerner had been a United Cab driver in New Orleans for over 30 years, following his father's footsteps. It's a family tradition that has long worried Kerner's mother.
“I didn't want him to follow in his footsteps like that,” said Dee Kerner. “I just thought it was bad.”
Officials said Kerner picked up a fare on D'Hemecourt Street in Mid-City before driving to Adonis Way in Terrytown, where the Kerner family's worst fear came to life.
Investigators believe Kerner was first shot inside the cab, then jumped out with the keys still in the ignition. They believe the gunmen continued to fire shots until Kerner collapsed in front of a home in the 200 block of Adonis Way. Meanwhile his cab rolled down the street, eventually hitting a neighbor’s parked car.
“It shows you how vulnerable cab drivers are,” said Sonny Frasier, a family friend who became a United Cab driver six months ago, training under Kerner.
“One of the first things I thought of, if it could happen to Billy, how easily it could happen to me,” Fraiser said.
Family members said Kerner had a long habit of intervening in dangerous situations.
“He saved people to his own peril,” Sheree Kerner said. “He rescued a woman from a kidnapper, and there are a few situations where he drove up on an armed robbery in progress and diffused the situation.”
Still, family members said Kerner knew how dangerous the job could be and recently started carrying a gun under his seat.
“This just is not, this just doesn't – it's not adding up,” Sheree Kerner said. “Billy's very well prepared.”
“You just don't know, when a person gets behind you at 12 in the morning or 3 in the afternoon, they're total strangers, you don't know their intentions, whether they just want a ride or they want to take your money or your life,” Fraiser said.
Kerner leaves behind a son and a daughter, as well as several grandchildren.
Officials with the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office believe robbery may have been the motive. They are still searching for the gunman, and said a neighbor saw an African American man in a black t-shirt, jeans and a New Orleans Hornets cap hop a fence in the area after shots were fired.
If you have any information, you're asked to call the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office or Crimestoppers at 822-1111.