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York City Mayor Michael Helfrich talks about the fatal shooting Monday, Feb. 12, on South Penn Street. York City Facebook page

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Matthew Alexander Bell was a kindhearted man who made friends easily and who moved to York City from Baltimore so he could be close to his 2-year-old son, according to Bell's mother.

"If Matt met you and talked to you one time, he considered you his friend. He was that type of person," said his mother, Cidney Thomas of Baltimore. "Matt was a very loving individual, very kind."

Bell, 32, became York City's first homicide victim of 2018 when he was fatally shot about 8:40 p.m. Monday, Feb. 12, in the 200 block of South Penn Street.

Bell was inside a house there when someone from outside fired bullets into the home, police said.

Investigators believe someone in the home was targeted by the shooter or shooters but said they aren't yet sure who was being targeted. Thomas said her son didn't live there.

Thomas said people in York have been telling her that after the gunfire started, Bell moved to protect two children in the room.

"I heard he grabbed a little boy first and then a little girl, (who is) a baby," she said. "It doesn't surprise me. ... He gave his life for someone else's child, and now his children are here without him."

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Knew the risks: Bell's mother believes her son knew the risk he was taking.

"He had to know when the bullets were flying that there could be certain consequences," she said. "But his first thought was to protect the baby."

York City Mayor Michael Helfrich has said Bell was holding a 1-year-old when he was fatally shot from behind.

Thomas said Helfrich called her Wednesday to offer his condolences.

"He did my heart good, especially knowing he cared enough about my son and what happened to him to reach out to the family," she said.

Helfrich lashed out at the shooter this week in a Facebook Live video, saying, "You shot at a baby. What the hell is wrong with you?"

More: Mayor: York City man was holding baby when he was fatally shot

Loved music, sports: Bell loved watching and playing football and basketball, and he taught himself to play keyboard and drums, according to his mother.

He played for fun and also played and sang with his family as part of their church singing group.

"He played all kinds of music, because I always taught him that if you are a true music lover, you can find joy in all types of music," Thomas said.

Thomas made her career in the military, and Bell spent some time as a child in Germany, she said.

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When he was about 9 or 10 the family moved to Baltimore, where Thomas finished raising Bell, his older brother Jason and his younger sisters, twins Kelly and Shelly.

Shelly Bell said she and her siblings also were raised by their father, Archie Lee Bell, of Prince Frederick, Maryland.

Bell joined the Reserve Officers' Training Corps in school and loved it, according to his mother, who said he excelled in ROTC.

Thomas said she and Bell's father took in and cared for many children over the years.

Loved his mom: "In turn, my kids learned to do the same thing," she said. "From what people in York are telling me — and I already knew it — he loved his mother. They said he talked about me all the time. It makes me feel good to know I had such a positive effect on him."

Bell worked at Dickey's Barbecue Pit in West Manchester Township, she said.

He came to York City after the mother and family of his younger son, 2-year-old Jay-Ceon Bell, moved here from Baltimore.

"He did not want to be separated from his son," Thomas said.

Bell also has a second son, 6-year-old Matthew Bell Jr. of Baltimore, with whom he was close, according to Thomas.

"We've always been a big part of their lives, and we will continue to be there for them," she vowed.

Thomas said she and her partner, Ivan Crump Sr. planned to attend the candlelight vigil for Bell at 8 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 15, in the 200 block of South Penn Street.

An autopsy Wednesday at Allentown's Lehigh Valley Hospital determined Bell died of a gunshot wound to the chest, according to the York County Coroner Pam Gay. She confirmed that a chest wound doesn't necessarily mean the bullet entered the front of the body, just that the bullet ended up in the chest cavity.

Anyone with information about Bell's slaying is asked to call York City Police at 717-846-1234 or text "Yorktips" and your information to 847-411. The texting service is anonymous.

— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at levans@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.

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