An 18-year-old who was fatally shot just over a week ago is being hailed for his actions in the moments that directly preceded the loss of his life. 

Al-Tarrek “Rico” Bell was killed when somebody shot up the car he was in as it backed out of a parking space. The shooting happened around 12:20 a.m. on Saturday, March 27, outside an apartment complex in New Jersey. Also killed in the same incident was 25-year-old Sadiel Gonzalez, who was reportedly in the driver’s seat at the time, and was also a resident of the same apartment complex.

According to Bell’s mother, Izetta Howell, the teen shielded a 10-year-old (identified as his girlfriend’s nephew) from being hit by the gunfire with his body. 

“It’s heart-breaking but I know my baby died a hero,” said Howell. “I can smile because I know he saved another person.”

The two survivors of the attack were the child sitting next to Bell, in addition to a passenger who was sitting in the front-seat. 

An investigation is ongoing. No arrests have been made. 

“My baby was a good kid,” Howell said in an interview on Wednesday. “He was so kind, so very respectful. And witty! He was a comedian.”

Bell was a resident of Skinnersville, North Carolina. He had ambitions to try and be an entertainer by way of moving to Los Angeles or Chicago, according to his mother. She said that her son sang, rapped, and was also a drummer in his high school band. He was set to graduate at the end of the current academic year. 

“He started writing his music, he started to record,” she added. “He just never got his chance.”

In addition to speaking about the loss of her son, Howell also addressed the yet-to-be-identified killer who took his life. 

“It’s hurtful,” she added. “This guy took a good man away from us.”

“With these guns, they need to put them down,” she continued, according to the Courier-Post

“When we were growing up, people used their hands, they used their emotions. Now, they don’t have the fight in them, they don’t have the heart, and they’d rather shoot at people.

“Then they end up taking innocent lives. That’s the worst part of being in this world.”

Bell’s father, Toriano Arthur, has set up a GoFundMe drive. In the description he writes that was his son was “shot and killed shielding a 10 year old child. This took place in South New Jersey, complex apartments. Shielding and protecting him from the flying bullets, he ended up getting shot 7 times and lost his life.”

Howell says that Bell was in New Jersey, along with his girlfriend and her family members, to visit friends. 

“He knew Sadiel through his girlfriend,” she said. “From what I gather, Sadiel was a very nice person.”