Oniesha Coleman can only describe the events leading up to her younger brother’s death as “surreal.”
She said it was almost like watching a movie.
“I feel like I was watching someone else’s life story, and now it feels like I’m becoming a part of that story,” Coleman told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “It’s crazy thinking back and remembering everything. It’s like we don’t have any other choice but to be strong for King Richard.”
In her first interview since Richard Nelson’s death, Coleman spoke inside her sister’s apartment about her brother’s character. She explained that the King Richard reference came from their childhood, when they used to play outside and “conquer a lot of kingdoms.” She said it also refers to the loyalty he had for everyone who knew him.
Nelson, an 18-year-old Chaparral High School graduate, was home for winter break and enjoying his last night with family before he had to fly back to Missouri, where he was attending college. He was fatally shot Saturday night after intervening in a fight between his sister and several other people outside their mother’s southeast Las Vegas home.
Las Vegas police said the 17-year-old murder suspect surrendered Tuesday, along with his mother. The mother was booked into the Clark County Detention Center on one count of harboring, concealing or aiding a felony offender.
Coleman, who declined to discuss other details of the incident, said they were planning to go bowling or out to a buffet before the shooting occurred. She wants the public to know that her brother never swung at anyone that night.
“He was just shielding me from them,” Coleman said. “He was just trying to stop them from hurting me, and he was trying to make sure I was safe — that the rest of us were safe. The coward shot him in his chest, and as he ran he shot him in his back.”
It wasn’t unlike Nelson to protect his family. Coleman said ever since they were young, he would do anything for his sister and two younger siblings, Raytion, 13, and Ratesia Nelson, 15.
“We were all each other had at one point,” Coleman said.
“Richard was brave in his actions,” added Coleman’s sister , Ora Howze. “He would do what he did a million times over again, and he would do it for any one of his siblings because that was the kind of person Richard was. He’s always been brave and will forever be brave.”
In a prior interview, Roxanne Bruce, Nelson’s mother, talked to the Review-Journal about her battle with substance abuse and credited her son with helping her fight her addiction.
“My mother taught us strength,” said Coleman, who has a different biological father. “She had a lot of demons, and they won a lot of battles against her, but she still kept fighting and eventually won her war. I believe he believed in her the most and he loved her most of all.”
Nelson’s determination in life is what Coleman remembers most.
Coleman couldn’t help but smile as she described the willpower Nelson had to reach a goal, whether it was a new pair of shoes or being the best athlete on his team.
“Richard was the type of person who could do anything he wanted,” Coleman said. “He would set his mind on something, and he would work for it and focus on it until he would get it.”
And just like in any other sister-brother relationship, she also recalls the times when he would get under her skin and the love they had for each other.
“He was annoying just like any other little brother, but ever since I could remember he was always the type to stick up for me,” Coleman said. “We’ve been through a lot of stuff. People couldn’t even imagine.”
Perhaps what was most unforgettable to Coleman was the gap-tooth smile that Nelson always carried and how attached he was to her when he was younger.
Her favorite memory was when she was in the first grade and Nelson sneaked out of his home equipped with swim trunks, a Ninja Turtles backpack and his shoes on backward because he couldn’t bear the thought of being away from his older sister. He then walked to Coleman’s nearby school.
“All the sudden I hear the door open, and he yelled, ‘Sister.’ He was sad because he wanted to go to school with me,” Coleman said. “He was always that goofy and annoying little brother who wanted to be with me — until he hit puberty that is.”
Despite their differences, Coleman said the siblings always had each other’s backs.
Nelson supported her dream of making it big with her music career, and Coleman was sure he was going to play in the NFL, though he also shared with her his interest in becoming a physical trainer, gym teacher or getting a business degree.
“He was my biggest fan. He was always showing support for me,” Coleman said.
Coleman said she is planning a public celebration of his life in the coming week. She hopes people remember him as a strong and protective leader.
“He was amazing, like Superman,” Coleman said. “I always thought he was invincible. He said it himself that he could do anything he wanted, and he did. I think that’s what makes him a legend.”
Contact Sandy Lopez at email@example.com or 702-383-4686. Follow @JournalismSandy on Twitter.