Sanai Macon, 15, had known Naimah Bell since they went to daycare together in Atlantic City.
“When I heard this news, I was extremely broken. I didn’t know how to take it. I still don’t believe it until right now. I was just looking at our pictures,” Macon said.
Bell, 15, of Pleasantville, was shot and killed shortly after 4 a.m. Thursday inside a home in the 100 block of Massachusetts Avenue in Atlantic City.
Nahquil Lovest, 18, of Pleasantville, was charged Friday with her murder, Atlantic County Prosecutor Damon G. Tyner said. According to the initial autopsy, authorities said Bell died from a gunshot wound to the head.
Friends and family of Bell hoped to bring the community together with two vigils Friday night in Atlantic City and Pleasantville.
Children released balloons saying “We love you, Naimah” near where she died in Atlantic City.
Meanwhile, in Pleasantville, friends gathered at Woodland Avenue Park to remember Bell, greeting each other with hugs and tear-filled eyes.
“She’d light up the room when she came in,” said Niyyah Callaway, holding back tears at the Pleasantville vigil. “She was beautiful, smart and everyone loved her.”
“Sadly, another young life in our community has been cut short, and others have been traumatized,” Tyner said in a news release Friday. “Our community is better than this. We must protect our children.”
Macon and Bell were in the same second-grade class at the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. School in Atlantic City, Macon said. Bell eventually transferred to Pleasantville schools, but the pair were reunited last year when Bell announced she would be attending Atlantic City High School for her freshman year.
They didn’t have all the same classes, but they had lunch together.
“All we did was just laugh and goof around. That’s all we ever did. She had a whole bunch of friends, and that’s all we ever did. We didn’t do nothing because there’s really nothing to do in Atlantic City,” Macon said.
Macon called Bell a “comedian” and said she would always yell out “Rosco,” Macon’s nickname, in the middle of the crowded high school hallway.
“She wouldn’t want me sad or mad. I’ve got to overcome it for her,” Macon said.
Bell’s death marks the seventh fatal shooting in Atlantic City this year and the third to involve teenagers. It is the ninth homicide in the city overall, surpassing last year’s total of seven.
Earlier this month, 18-year-old Katusca Robles was shot in an apartment on Pennsylvania Avenue.
Quran Bazemore, 16, was shot June 15 and died June 25. A 15-year-old is charged with murder in the shooting.
Grassroots efforts from community members have grown as a result of the recent rash of gun violence.
An effort titled “My City Needs Prayer” held a rally in the city in early July and has been holding prayer sessions every Monday at different locations in the county. Residents involved will also host a prayer session and march at 6 p.m. Monday, starting from New Shiloh Baptist Church on Atlantic Avenue to the Back Maryland neighborhood.
Staff Writer Patrick Mulranen contributed to this report.