A free spirit collides with a killer in Kirkwood

X’avier Arnold, his girlfriend and another friend were out to photograph graffiti on decaying industrial buildings in Kirkwood when they became aware of two people coming up behind them.

One of them, identified by police as a 14-year-old boy, began taunting the three friends, and Arnold turned toward his antagonist.

Arnold, known to all as X, was 21, a skateboarder, a talented artist and a Georgia National Guardsman. He was taking classes at the Atlanta campus of the Savannah College of Art and Design, and he had plans for the future. His mother described X as the sort who didn’t run from trouble, and he didn’t run from the two people on that day after Christmas.

Ebb Sanusi, the friend who was walking with X, said the 14-year-old pulled a 9mm pistol and demanded Sanusi’s wallet, while the other stranger grabbed for X. The four began grappling and the teenager shot Sanusi in the upper thigh. Sanusi said the second assailant was not faring well against X’avier Arnold and began to shout, “Shoot him! Shoot him!”

The child fired, striking Arnold in the back of the head. An EMT who lived nearby heard the gunfire and raced to help the wounded but found there was little he could do for Arnold.

X’s National Guard commander, Capt. Jermaine Anderson, said Arnold was one of his favorites.

“If I was trying to find him, I knew he was off sketching something,” Anderson said. “Conforming to the Army standard was challenging. He was very expressive with his hair and piercings and tats. He had to tone that down so on weekends he could look like a soldier.”

Rodney Reid, a longtime friend of Arnold’s mother, said X loved animé, a kind of animation that began in Japan but has achieved popularity worldwide.

“He embraced life as a whole,” said Reid. “He loved people. He’s someone who didn’t see color. He loved (Kirkwood). He liked the Bohemian thing going on.”

X’s funeral is scheduled for Saturday.

Subscribers can learn more — about X’avier Arnold and about how the Kirkwood neighborhood responded to his death — on myajc.com and in Saturday’s print AJC.