ST. LOUIS — "He was good to everybody. He was a great guy. Great leader," said Brian Rhodes.
Rhodes, a project manager at Joseph Ward Painting Co. in Brentwood, is talking about Derek Pratt.
Pratt, 45, worked as a painter for the company for 22 years. On Wednesday, Pratt was killed when his pickup truck was hit by a sedan wanted by St. Louis County police as part of a drug investigation.
Rhodes and Pratt were also related—their wives are cousins.
"Honestly, he was like a brother to me. He taught me a lot about life ... lot of lessons ... lot of tricks of the trade. If someone called him for a favor, needed something, Derek would be there. He was also the life of the party and was just a giving guy," said Rhodes.
Rhodes now fights back tears.
"Emotions are tough. Hard to check. I can't believe it," he said. "It's just kind of been eating me up."
Relatives said Pratt was heading to a painting job when he was killed.
"He was innocent. He was just going on his daily routine," said Rhodes.
Pratt's pickup truck collided with a tree near South Broadway and River City Casino Boulevard.
The husband and father of three adult children was killed instantly.
"There's not one person here at out business that's not hurting right now. I'm so mad," said Rhodes.
He last talked to Pratt on his cellphone earlier Wednesday morning.
"I'm still looking through the texts, the conversation we had that day. I want to call him and talk to him still. It's hard to bear. I can't believe. I just feel so bad for his wife, kids and our family. It's not right. It's not fair," said Rhodes.
Police said the two suspects are still in the hospital and no charges have been filed.
"I think they should go away forever. They took my brother's life for no reason. The world's missing out on a great, great person," said Rhodes.
St. Louis County police officers were conducting a drug investigation in the parking lot of River City Casino when the suspects sped away.
A spokeswoman said their officers were not pursing the suspects when the deadly crash occurred.