By Adam Duxter

ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) – Dion Ford’s coaches say he had a rare ability to combine confidence and humility.

During his time at St. Paul Central High School, that unique blend helped guide him to more than 1,000 points scored on the basketball court. It also helped him make a lifelong impact off it.

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On Thursday, Ford was shot and killed outside of a convenience store on St. Paul’s north side. According to police documents, he was attempting to take food to his car when he was approached and threatened.

Ford, a 21-year-old St. Paul native, had a permit to carry a firearm and shot first. That’s when Xavion Bell, also 21, shot back more than a dozen times, killing Ford.

Bell had been arrested previously in 2018 and 2020 for robbery and kidnapping. In November of 2021, he was released on bond. Bell now faces felony charges of
second-degree murder. He is expected to appear in court early next week, although he’s currently hospitalized following the shootout with Ford.

‘Energy, Caring’

St. Paul Central Coach Scott Howell remembers the first time he met Dion Ford.

“My first impression of him was ‘Look at this athlete,;: Howell said.

He’d quickly learn Ford was more than just that.

“He went from this silly kind of kid to kind of learning to take things seriously,” Howell said.

As a basketball player for the Minutemen from 2015-2019, Ford scored more than 1,000 points. Off the court, he also excelled on the football field.

“As good as he was, he never acted like a cocky superstar,” said Coach Dave Gubbrud. “Honestly, in football, he was a superstar.”

The two coaches say over the course of his high school years, Ford transformed in front of their eyes.

“You watch him mature, and you watch him do different school activities. He’s not that silly kid anymore. Now he’s the role model,” Howell said.

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“His maturation level was pretty outstanding,” Gubbrud said.

After graduating in 2019, Ford pursued basketball at the collegiate level, playing first in North Dakota, then Wyoming.

“On, and off the court, I don’t think he realized how smart he was, just naturally,” said Wibi MacDonald, who worked to coach Ford after he graduated high school. “Even just our first month of training going into college, it was just like boom, boom, boom. He was picking it up so easy. It was just natural. Everything was so
natural to him,” he said.

‘Too Many Guns’

The group of St. Paul Central coaches say Ford is the sixth former athlete who has passed in the last three years.

“We lose our young people with so much potential for no reason here,” said Curtis Bakken, who coached Ford at St. Paul Central.

“One of my former students texted at 1:30 in the morning and said ‘Did you hear the news?’” said Jenny Wamsley, who taught Ford during his time at Central High
School. “My heart just sunk. Not Dion, he’s such a great kid.”

“He wasn’t a kid that was doing the wrong thing. He was a kid that was trying to go get some food,” Bakken said.

“I said to my wife, I knew he wasn’t into anything bad, so I don’t know what could have happened here,” Gubbrud said. “When I found out what happened, it’s

Ford’s mother, Danita King, says he had gotten his concealed carry permit following his return to Minnesota in 2021, fearing about the danger on the streets of St. Paul.

“Dion wasn’t a kid that was out in the streets,” Bakken said. “He wasn’t a kid that was doing the wrong thing. He was a kid that was trying to go get some food,” referring to the night Ford was killed.

“There are challenges when you’re coaching in the inner city,” Bakken said. “You don’t have other coaches out in the suburbs worrying about their kids getting shot going to the grocery store. I want people to hear that.”

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On Saturday afternoon, Ford’s coaches, teammates, family and friends held a balloon release outside of St. Paul Central High School in his honor.

Adam Duxter