A young man from Skinnersville, North Carolina, gave up his life to save a young boy after shielding him from a spray of bullets.

Al-Tarrek Bell, 18, protected a ten-year-old boy in a shooting in New Jersey on March 27. The teen shielded the boy with his own body from the deadly gunfire.

The shooting happened in the parking lot of a Woodlane Road apartment complex, Edgewater Park, New Jersey. Bell was in a car with his girlfriend’s nephew when someone began shooting at the vehicle. The 18-year-old was seated in the rear seat and quickly reacted using his own body to cover the boy and received multiple hits. His valiant gesture saved the young boy’s life.

Another victim of the shooting was the driver, 25-year-old Sadial Gonzalez, also a Woodlane Road resident. Both were pronounced dead at the scene when police arrived at 12:20 am, Burlington County Prosecutor’s Office reported.

“It’s heartbreaking but I know my baby died a hero,” Izetta Howell, who is Bell’s mother, shared to the Courier Post on Wednesday “I can smile because I know he saved another person.”

Bell still had a long way to go in his life. The young man was looking forward to his birthday this month, graduating high school, and had a future aspiration of becoming a model and a comedian, Courier-Post reported. 

According to his mother, Bell was a man of incredible personality. “He was so kind, so very respectful.” his mother reminisced, “he was all about going to school, all about making money at his jobs.” 

His death was heartbreaking, but the fact that he died for sacrificing himself to protect the young boy and his “heart of gold,” makes it “easier” for his mother to accept. 

 “I love him, and I will never, ever, ever, ever, ever forget him ever. And I will make sure that his name lives on as the hero that he was,” said the young boy’s mom Jacqueline Santiago.

“He shield[ed] my son, and made sure he was safe. I will never ever, forget you!!” Santiago wrote on her Facebook page, referring to Bell as her son-in-law. “We will keep your name alive. You always said to me you got him. You will always protect him and you [kept] your word. You did exactly that, you gave your life to save his. You are your brother’s keeper.”

The Office of the Burlington County Prosecutor reported that the perpetrator has not been identified or arrested yet and that they are still investigating the attacker’s motive. 

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