ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — Students at the High School for the Recording Arts are celebrating the life of one of their own.
Phil Nelson, an advisor and alumnus of the school, was killed more than a week ago in Columbia Heights.
Police are still looking for the gunman.
Nelson was laid to rest and remembered by hundreds of students who say he was their light in times of darkness.
“It hurts a lot that he is gone,” said Nashaun Shackelton.
One look around the gymnasium inside the High School of Recording Arts and you can see how much Phil Nelson was loved.
Stories filled memory boards placed around the gym. Stories of how Nelson impacted the lives of so many.
For Nashaun Shackelton, being in the gym brings back memories.
“I was just thinking about how every game, all season through our games he was always in the corner just cheering us on, telling us to go harder, don’t give up. He was just a motivator,” Shackelton said.
Shackelton says Nelson was much more than just an advisor.
“He was like a father figure to me really. There’s been times when I didn’t have places to go, Phil would make sure I was safe, have something to eat,” said Shackleton.
Students and staff at the school prepared a meal and shared memories with Nelson’s family.
They say they wanted his family to know how special he was and how much he changed the lives of everyone he met.
“He cared, he really did. It wasn’t no show, you know how people just, when you walk by someone they’ll say, ‘How you doing?’ and you just keep going and you just say, ‘Good.’ He’ll actually sit you down and say, ‘How are you doing?'” said Adri Cerrato.
Adri Cerrato says Nelson would get students involved in social issues, taking them to the Capitol and city council meetings to speak out about education reform.
“We went to so many different meetings and council things, so he expected me to do what’s inside of me and he showed me who I am, so he expected me to be 100 percent me,” Cerrato said.
For these students that means graduating and continuing their education.
Students we spoke with say they feel as if they owe Phil Nelson to be the best they can be.
“I owe Phil to graduate, to do my best on the court and play my hardest like he always wanted me to. Next year I’m going to wear his jersey number and hold it down,” Shackelton said.
“I love you and you really helped me through a lot, more than you know. I just got love for you like no other,” Cerrato said.
Students say Nelson had a connection to everyone at the school and his presence is already missed in the halls.
Police are still looking for the man believed to have killed Nelson.
They say 41-year-old Phillip Miller of Brooklyn Park goes by the nickname “Ox” and is 5 foot 8 with a medium build.
He has slight facial hair and dreadlocks.
He may also have a tattoo of a red flower on his left forearm.
If you have any information call police.