UCM student killed in unintentional shooting at apartment had a ‘heart of gold,’ friends say

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WARRENSBURG, Mo. — The University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg is mourning the loss of a student.

The university says the 21-year-old died after a reported “accidental discharge of a firearm.”

Stephon Abron lived at Greenwood Apartments, owned by UCM, with a longtime friend from back home in the St. Louis area.

Fellow students and people in the Warrensburg community are struggling to grasp what’s happened and why a young man, described to have a heart of gold, would be taken so soon and so tragically.

“He could light up a room with his smile. It was so contagious,” Brandon Sowers said.

Sowers got to know Abron through a ministry at UCM called Navigators. The two were roommates for a while, and Sowers was at Warrensburg First Baptist in February, when Abron was baptized.

He’s now heartbroken after learning his friend was shot and killed in a campus apartment.

“Nothing happens that’s not supposed to happen,” Sowers said. “It’s all in God’s plan, and I believe he served his purpose very well. He lived his life to the fullest and impacted people’s lives in such a positive way.”

Police haven’t released any details about what went wrong, only that the incident happen in Abron’s apartment.

Classmate Jeremy Manley was arrested on suspicion of involuntary manslaughter. Authorities told FOX4 that Manley is no longer in police custody, and formal charges haven’t been filed.

“I think I just keep hoping it`s not real but it is,” said Brendan Riggs, the campus director of UCM Navigators. “He was one of those guys you sit down with and life is better because of your time with him.”

Riggs said he’s talked with a lot of students struggling to couple with their loss. As he spoke about the dreams and plans Abron was already making for the future, like being a pilot, he got choked up.

“I think that was my first realization — he’s really gone. Thinking about what he won’t be able to do,” Riggs said.

His pastor described Abron as unique and charismatic.

“He was just a guy that really stood out, happy and loving and just wanting to serve,” said Patrick Edwards, lead pastor of First Baptist Church of Warrensburg.

Edwards will lead a Bible study Thursday to connect with UCM students, for support and helping them process their grief, and he hopes others will strive to follow in Abron’s footsteps.

“While we grieve and while we’re sad, we can at least hold up this incredible man and say look at the way he lived his life,” Edwards said. “Look where he placed his faith, and that should be a challenge to all of us. The best way we can honor him is by trusting the Lord he gave his life to.”

Several events are being planned to honor Abron’s life. The first of those is a rosary service happening at the UCM Newman Center at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday.

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