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‘He Had So Much to Live For’: Black Pennsylvania Teen Accidentally Shot Dead Weeks Ahead of Receiving Congressional Gold Medal for Saving Other Kids from Icy Pond

A Black Philadelphia teen once hailed a hero for saving three children from an icy pond last year lost his life when a gun went off during an Instagram Live recording.

The gun was being passed around by another teen when it fired accidentally and hit Anthony Alexander Jr., 17, the witnesses told authorities.

“He was a beautiful child, and this is still not real for me,” Alexander Jr.’s stepmother Ava Alexander told the Philadelphia Inquirer.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reports Alexander was among a group of teens who were sitting on a couch in an apartment in the Philadelphia suburb of Drexel Hill on Jan. 29. One of the teens, later identified as Diamire Hickman, 16, told police they were “live streaming themselves on Instagram in the apartment while ‘passing around’ two handguns,” the outlet reported.

While Hickman was holding the Glock pistol, he “put his hand on the trigger a teeny bit, causing the gun to go off and shoot Alexander Jr. in the face,” the Inquirer reported. Hickman reportedly then fled the apartment.  

Alexander Jr. was pronounced dead at the scene. Police tracked Hickman down using surveillance footage, which showed the 16-year-old hopping a fence near the apartment holding a handgun.

Anthony Alexander Jr.
A screenshot of Anthony Alexander Jr. after being recognized for saving three children from an icy pond in 2022. (Photo: Facebook/Anthony Hardy Williams)

Hickman turned himself into police on Jan. 30. He has been charged with third-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter.

“He had so much to live for,” Anthony Alexander Sr. told WPVI.

“We now have a young man, who, as you pointed out, was very heroic last year. He’s now dead, and you have two families who are dealing with the tragedy,” Delaware County District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer said.

Alexander Jr. was just weeks away from receiving a Congressional Medal of Honor for his heroic efforts on Feb. 21, 2022.

Alexander Jr. helped rescue three children between the ages of 9 and 11 from an icy pond the Messenger-Inquirer reported.

Alexander Jr. was at a park that day when he heard some commotion.

“She screamed, ‘Hurry! You’ve got to come and help my friends down there are drowning!'” Anthony Alexander told the Messenger-Inquirer last year.

Anthony Alexander Jr.
A screenshot of the icy pond Anthony Alexander Jr. jumped into to save three children from drowning in 2022. (Photo: Facebook/Anthony Hardy Williams)

The three children were playing on a frozen pond when the ice cracked, causing the kids to fall into the frigid water. The kids reportedly were struggling to stay afloat before Alexander Jr. sprang into action to save them. He used a broken tree branch he found on the ground and walked onto the iced-over pond to help pull the kids out of the water.

“One foot fell in, and then the other, and I could feel myself sinking,” Alexander told the Messenger-Inquirer.

Alexander then jumped into the icy water to help the remaining kid get to the embankment and out of the water. First responders arrived at the scene as the rescue was ending.

“They were all screaming they were going to die. I told them, no, that’s not going to happen today. I’ll get you out,” Alexander described the scene to reporters.

Alexander’s efforts garnered him local recognition.

Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon recognized Alexander on the U.S. House floor for his bravery.

“Anthony’s quick thinking and selfless action at Collingdale Park prevented a tragedy,” Gay Scanlon said during her speech last March.

“He saw the good in everybody, and he would always come to someone’s defense,” Ava said of her stepson.

Alexander Jr.’s parents pleaded for other parents to always be aware of what their children are doing. They also want something done to address children’s easy access to guns.

“We have to do something about the gun violence … because we cannot afford to keep losing out teenagers,” Ava Alexander said.

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