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Memorial service honors Chaparral grad who was killed Saturday

Homemade banners celebrating the life of slain Chaparral High School graduate and star athlete Richard Nelson rustled in the wind Thursday afternoon while coaches and administrators spoke fondly of their memories of him.

“We were all blessed having been around Richard for four years,” said Steve Bentz, Chaparral boys basketball head coach.

Nelson, 18, was shot and killed outside his Las Vegas home Saturday night while trying to protect his sister from a fight.

“If you speak to somebody who just was with him for 10 seconds, they were blessed to be around him,” Bentz said.

Nelson ran track and was a standout football and basketball player at the school. After graduating from Chaparral last year, he joined the Missouri State University football team as a tailback.

About 125 people attended the half-hour service Thursday in front of the school. At the end of the ceremony, those in attendance released dozens of blue balloons. Blue was Nelson’s favorite color.

Nelson’s family was among the crowd. With them was his cousin, teammate and college roommate, Rickey Nichols. Nichols said he drove 30 hours from Missouri to attend Thursday’s memorial and the funeral planned for Sunday.

“I didn’t complain one time,” Nichols said.

Staff sold T-shirts honoring Nelson outside the school for $10 each. Xavier Antheaume, assistant principal and athletic administrator at Chaparral, said proceeds from the shirts will go toward a scholarship in Nelson’s name. No official criteria for the scholarship have been set yet, but Antheaume said it probably will be awarded to a multisport athlete.

Another memorial is scheduled Jan. 29 on the Missouri State University campus. The Missouri State athletic department created a memorial fund to help Nelson’s family with funeral expenses.

Cynthia Ziegler, Nelson’s former track coach, said Thursday’s event was necessary to try to ease the sting of a painful week.

“It’s just very emotionally draining this week that this was nice, and we all needed a little bit of closure, I think,” she said.

Contact Blake Apgar at bapgar@reviewjournal.com. Follow @blakeapgar on Twitter.

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