LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Friend of late journalist Brent Renaud took time to honor him Monday by discussing his legacy. They found it tough to talk about the Little Rock native, who died Sunday after Russian forces fired at a car he was in.

Renaud, 50, was documenting refugees fleeing Ukraine during the war. Another journalist was also shot, but he was taken to a hospital for medical care.

Matt Bell, a construction and finance influencer in Arkansas, grew up with Renaud. They played on soccer teams together and attended Hall High School.

“I knew he’d do great things,” Bell said. “Always did.”

Bell said his sister told him the news Sunday morning, and the realization that his friend is gone has not hit yet.

“He died doing what he loved to do: telling stories,” Bell said.

Bell said Renaud never forgot about the people he grew up with and developed longstanding relationships. The filmmaker gained considerable acclaim for work he did in dangerous situations, documenting important parts of society Americans otherwise wouldn’t learn about.

“You would never know he was scared to go into anything, from a Mexican cartel to Somalia to Afghanistan,” Bell said.

Bell said they recently attended a show at the White Water Tavern in Little Rock, and that’s the last time they saw each other. Matt White, the tavern’s manager, had been friends with Renaud for around 10 years.

“I had the deep privilege of working with Brent and Craig Renaud through the Little Rock Film Festival, which they built into one of the most enlightening and exciting events in the city,” White said. “Brent was a huge believer in the musicians, artists, and filmmakers throughout Arkansas, and he worked hard to try to highlight their work.”

White said Renaud’s impact is considerable on the country and state.

“He was an American hero and his murder is a profound loss for the world, the state of Arkansas, the city of Little Rock and certainly for his family and everyone around the globe who love him,” White said. “We have lost one of our generations great journalists, filmmakers and truth-tellers.”

Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott announced Monday that the city would light up its bridges purple and white in honor of Renaud. 

Bell said he and others close to Renaud plan to start a foundation in the late filmmaker’s honor. The foundation would focus on education and journalism scholarships.

“He would be honored to have that in his name,” Bell said. “That will be coming soon.”

Bell said he’ll always remember Renaud as an inspiration during his life and after his passing. “He’s an Arkansas treasure, an American hero now,” Bell said.