FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA) — When Stephen Carr was assigned to do security detail for first-day Ramadan celebrations at the Northwest Arkansas Islamic Center, he’d never stepped foot in a mosque. What began as timidity turned into a relationship between the slain officer and the local Muslim community, and a member of the NWAIC took Sunday to reflect on it.
“He was definitely a friendly face that we will miss seeing in the coming years,” said Bilal Ziada, a member of NWAIC. “I think he learned people’s names, and everyone would want to bring tea and food out to him and make sure everyday he’s stuffed with food.”
Ziada said he greeted Carr the first time he came to do security detail. He said that first day, Carr was straight laced—he didn’t show much of his personality because he wasn’t yet familiar with Islamic customs.
“He came off as kind of quiet like in a professional manner,” Ziada said.
But as Eid celebrations and more Ramadan celebrations came along, Ziada said he noticed a change. Carr started to be more open—asking questions, cracking jokes and making friends.
“I mean, the kids loved him, sometimes a little too much,” Ziada said. “They just wanted to run and jump up [on him], because he was a pretty big guy.”
Carr, 27, was shot and killed Saturday in what police suspect was an untargeted attack. The officer stood behind the Fayetteville Police Station waiting for his partner to go on shift. A man, identified as London Phillips, shot Carr at point-blank range execution-style before he was shot and killed by responding officers.
In a press conference Sunday, Fayetteville Police Chief Mike Reynolds paid Carr the ultimate compliment.
“He was an all-American boy,” Reynolds said. “I’ve got 131 officers including myself, and if I had 131 Steven Carrs, I wouldn’t be more ecstatic.”
Folks at the NWAIC remembered him as such, and Ziada said he, “matched the picture the [Fayetteville Police Department] put out—just smiling all the time.”
“He was definitely a friendly face that we will miss seeing in the coming years,” Ziada said.