(WNCN) — At the young age of 18, Al’Tarrek Bell had plans for his future.
Bell, a North Carolina native, was set to celebrate a birthday soon and according to family, he was a football player at Washington County High School in Plymouth and had plans to pursue a modeling career.
Bell, according to his mother Izetta Howell in an interview with the Courier Post, was traveling some 370 miles away from home to visit friends in New Jersey and had his life cut short after someone opened fire on a car that Bell was in with a 10-year-old boy that family says he promised to always protect.
Bell’s mother told the newspaper that her son, who was a junior in high school, used his body to shield the boy that was sitting beside him.
“It’s heart-breaking but I know my baby died a hero,” mother Izetta Howell told the newspaper. “He had so many goals,” she said.
Bell was one of two people killed in the New Jersey town of Edgewater Park. The sheriff’s office says that 25-year-old Sadiel Gonzalez was also killed in the hail of gunfire.
A family friend started a GoFundMe in Bell’s honor to help cover funeral costs and any other fees associated with his death.
Bell’s mother says her son was a good kid and was kind and respectful.
“He was all about going to school, all about making money at his jobs,” she continued, noting Bell had worked in construction and at a hotel. “And witty! He was a comedian.”
Howell remembered her son in a very emotional Facebook post.
The organizer of the GoFundMe tells CBS 17 that Bell always promised to protect the 10-year-old boy and he “truly did that to his last day.”
The boy in the car was the brother of Bell’s girlfriend, though the 10-year-old boy’s mother described the two as “brothers”, in a Facebook post.
“Dedicating my page to my son in law, my Angel. He put his life on the line, to save my ten yrs old son. Him and my son were inseparable, when you seen one, you seen the other. Altarrek, I will never forget you. And thank you for keeping your word and protecting your brother. You are and will always be your brothers keeper!!!! I will keep your name alive,” the Jacqueline Santiago said on Facebook.
Bell’s father also started a GoFundMe, noting that Bell was “shielding and protecting (the boy) from the flying bullets, he ended up getting shot seven times and lost his life.”
“Please help his mom and I with the expenses, to help put our son to rest, he lost his life being a Hero,” his father Toriano Arthur said.
An investigation is underway but no arrests have been announced, according to the sheriff’s office.