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Mentor: UAPB student gunned down

by I.C. Murrell | August 2, 2021 at 7:12 a.m.
Police tape

A Stuttgart High School graduate who recently re-enrolled at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff was the victim of a Sunday morning homicide, according to his mentor.

In a Facebook post, Stuttgart police announced at 10:25 a.m. that local and Arkansas State Police investigators were on the scene of a homicide but did not provide further details or identify a victim or suspect.

A person at Stuttgart police headquarters said further information on the incident would not be released until today at the earliest, per the department's chief. A state police spokesperson did not immediately return an email seeking details about the homicide.

Omarion Bones, 18, was shot to death Sunday, said Larry Cox, who runs a mentorship program in Stuttgart called the Champion Center. Cox said he learned about Bones' passing from a phone call to the center.

"When I had seen something on Facebook, random people were saying, 'Go check on your kids,'" Cox said. "I got a call from one of my boys. The calls kept going to voicemail. By the time I got to the center, I had gotten a call that Omarion had been shot."

Cox said he stepped in to look after Bones following the death of Bones' mother, Monica Fitzpatrick, in December 2019. Bones was an assistant coach on Cox's AAU basketball team, the Arkansas Yellowjackets, although Bones did not play basketball in high school.

"Like I told him, one day someone will have to pick up my slack," Cox said. "[I said to him,] 'One day you will be the future CEO of the business and the basketball program.' He said, 'I have to learn the system so I know what I'm doing.' That's the type of kid he was."

Bones played football at Stuttgart High School and graduated in 2020.

He was never listed on the UAPB football roster, according to a UAPB athletic department spokesperson.

Bones then entered the NCAA transfer portal, according to Cox, and chose to attend Iowa Wesleyan University, which, Cox said, offered his mentee a scholarship out of high school. Based in the southeast part of the state, Iowa Wesleyan listed Bones as a 5-foot-10, 200-pound freshman linebacker and physical education major.

Iowa Wesleyan played only three games during the spring due to covid-19. Cox said out-of-state tuition, among other things, factored into Bones' decision to transfer back to UAPB.

"We got him back enrolled about a week ago," Cox said. "He was going to walk on to be a Golden Lion."

In a statement, UAPB Chancellor Laurence B. Alexander said Bones would have been a "returning freshman" when the fall semester begins. He added that Ralph Owens, the university's interim associate dean for residential services, expressed condolences to Bones' family.

"We are devastated by this loss and encourage our students who are already on campus to visit the Student Counseling Assessment and Development (SCAD) Center in Caldwell Hall, and students who are not on campus may call SCAD at (870) 575-8969," Alexander wrote. "All faculty and staff are encouraged to reach out to the Employee Assistance Program at (800) 542-6021. Please keep Mr. Bones' family and friends in your thoughts and prayers."

Stuttgart High School football Coach Josh Price called Bones' death a tragic loss.

"Great kid," Price said. "It was always, 'Yes, sir. No, sir.' Anything you asked of him, he would do it, but unfortunately he was hurt, so he didn't get to play much. He was a great teammate and a pleasure to have coached. He's a great kid and will be missed."

Cox said Bones had a smile that would brighten others' day.

"Great kid, didn't get into any trouble, didn't get into it with nobody," Cox said. "Nothing gang related or drug related. Didn't have a beef with anyone. None of that. Literally, none of that."

Stuttgart police asked that anyone with information about the homicide to call (870) 673-2171.

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