AL-Tarrek Bell, 18, sacrificed his own life to save a boy that his family says he promised to protect.
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"Thank God my son was there to protect the little boy in the back seat," said Izetta Howell.
Despite her grief, Howell of Skinnersville, North Carolina, was singing her son's praises.
Bell planned to celebrate his birthday later this month and then graduate from high school with big dreams on his mind.
"He wanted to become a model. He loved playing football, he always dreamed about going to the NFL," said Howell.
But Bell's dreams were tragically cut short after he had traveled to Edgewater Park, New Jersey, with his girlfriend and members of her family to visit her sister.
Just after midnight on Saturday, March 27, at the Orchard Park Apartments, Bell was sitting in the back seat of a car with his girlfriend's 10-year-old nephew when someone opened fire.
Bell was killed along with the driver, 25-year-old Sadiel Gonzales.
"It's just a hurtful feeling that somebody just took his life like that, in a senseless act," said Howell.
Remarkably, the boy was not injured because, despite being shot seven times, Bell shielded him.
"For him to save his life, that meant the world to me even though my son is gone; but just to know that my son had a heart of gold, it makes it even better to deal with," said Howell.
The little boy's mother had nothing but praise and admiration for Bell's courageous actions.
"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 Jackie Santiago of Skinnersville, North Carolina.
Howell, who now believes her son is in Heaven, says others keep reminding her that Bell's smile would light up a room.
"When he would come to school, his smile would light up the whole school," said Howell. "Now, when I walk outside, his smile lights up the sky and that makes me feel good."
She adds she will not rest until justice is served.
So far, police have not announced any arrests made in this case.