Teen sacrifices his life shielding 10-year-old from bullets during drive-by shooting: ‘He died a hero’


EDGEWOOD PARK, NJ – An 18-year-old man kept a promise he made when he sacrificed his life to save a child from gunfire in Edgewood Park, New Jersey.

Just after midnight on Saturday, March 27, AL-Tarrek “Rico” Bell was sitting in the back seat of a car with his girlfriend’s 10-year-old nephew at the Woodlane Road Apartment complex when the vehicle was struck with a barrage of gunfire.

Bell and the driver, 25-year-old Sadiel Gonzalez, were both killed. Two other people inside the vehicle survived, including the young nephew.

Authorities said that when the shooting began, Bell draped his own body over the 10-year-old shielding him as bullets tore through the car. Multiple bullets struck Bell, but the boy was unharmed.

The boy’s mother praised the selfless act by Bell. Jackie Santiago said:

“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.”

In a Facebook post two days later, Santiago posted a dedication to Bell:

Dedicating my page to my son-in-law, my Angel. He put his life on the line to save my ten-year-old. He shielded my son and made sure he was safe. I will never, ever forget you!! We will keep your name alive.

You always said to me you got him, you will always protect him, and you keep your word. You did exactly that, you gave your life to save his. You are your brother’s keeper.


The high school senior from Skinnersville, North Carolina, had dreams of becoming a model in Chicago or Los Angeles after graduation.

He was just weeks away from his 19th birthday. Bell’s mother, Izetta Howell, said that her son “was about to do major things.” She praised his sacrifice to save the child:

“Thank God my son was there to protect the little boy in the back seat.

“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.”

Bell’s mother said she believes her son is in Heaven, and that gives her some comfort:

“When he would come to school, his smile would light up the whole school. Now, when I walk outside, his smile lights up the sky and that makes me feel good.”

Candace Pitter, Bell’s Sixth Grade guidance counselor, commented that her heart is broken over the death of her former student:

“It took me a while to make this post because of how hard this is for me…… if you know me then you know I call all of my students my babies!!! I had the pleasure of meeting this young man in the 6th grade… he was NEVER disrespectful, and I enjoyed being his counselor! My heart breaks for his family because he truly was a good kid!”


Another family member, Tijuan Lee-Floyd, posted on Facebook:

“The good die young!! But he died a hero!”


Burlington County Prosecutor Scott Coffina and Edgewater Park Police Chief Robert D. Hess issued a joint statement saying both Bell and Gonzalez were pronounced dead at the scene, and that autopsies will be performed by Burlington County Medical Examiner Dr. Ian Hood.

The statement continued that a motive for the shooting was under investigation and no arrests have been made.

Anyone with information about the shooting is asked to call Burlington County Central Communications at 609-265-7113, or send an email to [email protected]

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Heroes: Deputies rescued residents from burning homes in mobile home park before fire crews arrive

February 22, 2021


ADAMS COUNTY, CO – According to reports, two local sheriff’s deputies are being credited with helping save several lives while a fire was ongoing at a mobile home park in Adams County – prior to even fire crews arriving on the scene. 

Even officials from the local fire rescue team are extending accolades to the quick efforts enacted by the deputies. 

On February 21st at approximately 5:00 a.m., a call came in about a structure fire that was ongoing at a mobile home park located on North Federal Boulevard and West 55th Avenue.

Adams County Sheriff’s Deputies Elijah Roman and Aaron Derycke happened to both be on patrol that morning and were relatively close to where the incident was ongoing. 

Deputy Derycke recollected on the matter, explaining that once they’d heard that the incident was a structure fire, they’d decided to rush over to the scene: 

“When they say ‘structure fire,’ usually it’s not a good thing. We came as fast as we could.”

Deputy Roman had arrived on the scene first, as the two deputies were separately patrolling earlier, and stated that he was immediately informed by witnesses that there were people trapped inside one of the homes:

“I was being flagged down by someone letting me know there’s still people inside the structure. It still looked like there was an opportunity for me to go in there before it completely burned down.”

When Deputy Roman entered the home, he’d eventually found that there was a woman still sleeping in the home as it was burning: 

“The lady was sleeping in her bed in the very back of the trailer. I crawled to the back because the fire and the smoke were really heavy. So, I was kind of feeling around. I got back to her and was able to get her out from there as quick as I could.”

Not long thereafter, Deputy Derycke had arrived on the scene. 

When Deputy Derycke had seen Deputy Roman in action and working to help those still inside the burning homes, he stated he too went straight into action: 

“When I saw him running out and coughing as much as he was, that’s when it kicked in. I wasn’t thinking…If my partner’s doing it, I’m doing it.”

Following suit, Deputy Derycke had started helping people out of their homes.

Adams County Fire Rescue had arrived on the scene minutes afterward, with ACFR Lt. Joe Anderson II saying that by the time they’d arrived, the fire was already to a point where the structures couldn’t be entered: 

“We actually attempted to do a primary search in the first trailer. As soon as we opened up the door, one of the firefighters was on his knees fixing to go in, and the fire rolled down on top of his head. I actually had to pull that firefighter back out.”

The fire crews then redirected their focus to getting the fire contained – as four homes had already been destroyed and power lines were taken down. 

But what was further complicating this fire was the fact that the outside temperatures were -7 degrees, according to ACFR Lt. Anderson: 

“As soon as we got wet, everything froze up. My body froze up, my mask froze up, and that’s what made it difficult. It was the most severe weather conditions we’ve ever had to deal with.”

The fire was eventually quelled by 6:15 a.m. that morning.

ACFR Lt. Anderson said that the efforts of the two deputies helped his crew to maintain their focus on mitigating the spread and damage from the fire: 

“Knowing that the deputies were here first and that they were able to pull those people out, that helped us concentrate on the rest of the mobile home park and save everything else here.”

While four people were treated at a nearby hospital for smoke inhalation, there were zero reported fatalities from the incident. Want to make sure you never miss a story from Law Enforcement Today?  With so much “stuff” happening in the world on social media, it’s easy for things to get lost.  



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