Family says homicide victim Tristan Harper was mentor for Omaha youth -
Published Saturday, December 28, 2013 at 4:21 pm / Updated at 4:48 pm
Family says homicide victim Tristan Harper was mentor for Omaha youth

Friends and family members gathered Saturday to sweep glass shards from Tristan Harper's northeast Omaha house and to pray in the aftermath of the young man's death.

Harper, 29, was shot and killed about 4:20 a.m. Friday in his house at 4812 Maple St. Police continue to investigate.

His father, Carl Bass, said it was his understanding that someone kicked the door in to get to his son.

Bass and a cousin described Harper as a man who mentored nephews and nieces and the children of young men who were killed in the area.

They suggested the killer was either envious of Harper or simply evil. They said Harper wasn't a gang member.

“Not my cousin. Nope,” said Jerry Freeman, who said the two were best friends.

Harper had run-ins with the law, primarily for misdemeanors such as possession of a small amount of pot, driving without a license, disorderly conduct and keeping pit bulls without muzzling them and failing to get licenses and rabies shots for them.

Harper wrote on Facebook last week, “thankful to be alive lord knows he saved me 1000 times ... ”

His father, of Omaha, said this referred to the many young men who had died.

“He felt thankful to God to be living,” Bass said.

Bass and Freeman said Harper mentored several children of young men who had been killed and took them to football and basketball practices, and to birthday parties.

Freeman agreed that it was shockingly common for young men Harper's age to die.

“He and I went to funerals together,” Freeman said. “Never thought I'd lose my cousin, be burying my cousin.”

Bass spoke stoically of his son in the front yard of Harper's home.

“I'm OK. I gave it to the Lord,” Bass said of his son's violent death. “And when you give it to God, he takes the pain and anguish away from you.”

Bass, 53, said Harper was the youngest of five children and had no children of his own. He said his son liked to read about black history, American history and religion, and took classes at the University of Nebraska at Omaha.

Harper ran a business from his house called Thought of Mind, in which he sold jewelry, shoes, T-shirts, hats and other items.

Freeman said his cousin maintained an optimistic attitude.

“His quote was, 'Today will be a blessed day. Trust that' ”

A funeral service hadn't been scheduled as of Saturday afternoon.

Harper's Dodge Charger and Chevy Avalanche truck sat in the driveway Saturday, right beneath a window that had a bullet hole in it.

Contact the writer: Rick Ruggles    |   402-444-1123    |  

Rick covers health and medicine. He also occasionally covers cops, breaking news and events around town.

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