Xavier Arnold was remembered for his infectious smile and spirit during a funeral service held Saturday for the art student and Army reservist.
Arnold, 21, was shot in the head on Dec. 26 during an attempted robbery while walking along a bike trail in the Kirkwood community. Scores of family and friends attended the service at New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Lithonia to pay tribute to Arnold, who was known as “X.” Arnold’s service also included military honors provided by members of the Georgia National Guard, where he served for three years.
Friends and church leaders, including Bishop Eddie Long, referenced Arnold’s passion for life and love of art. Arnold was a student at the Savannah College of Art and Design and was an aspiring artist and cartoonist. Several mourners wiped away tears during a video showing images of the young student. During the eulogy, Long focused on Arnold’s sacrifice and service to his country, along with his significance to his family and community.
Two suspects, Qutravius Palmer, 22, and a 14-year-old juvenile have been arrested in connection to the shooting death. The arrests bring some closure for Arnold’s mother, Nicole Villafane, who called her son’s death a senseless act of violence.
“It wasn’t just our families … but it ripped through Atlanta and it also ripped (the suspects’) families apart,” she said in a brief interview with reporters after the funeral. Villafane was flanked by her son’s friends, including two who were with Arnold when the shooting occurred.
“I wish I could turn back time,” Ibrahim Sanusi said while grimacing through closed eyes. Sanusi and Xenia Aims, Arnold’s girlfriend, were with him during the attack. Sanusi suffered a leg wound during the shooting.
“It’s surreal,” Aims said. “His friends have helped me get through this. When I’m with them, I’m with X.”
Arnold’s death was the 83rd of 84 homicides in Atlanta last year, and took place in an area where residents say random, violent crime has increased.
The age of the teenager arrested in the shooting is troubling, said Villafane. She has pledged to begin some type of outreach program to help troubled youth.
“It lets me know that we have a mission now. That we need to get in these middle schools and start investing in these youth, sixth grade and up, and try to see what their gifts are,” she said. “The way Xavier was out there meeting people … we need to spread his dream and his joy.”