‘This loss is a great one’

Friends remember Arshell Dennis

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Suzanne Ciechalski and Reza Moreno

A St. John’s student lost his life roughly three weeks ago. Arshell “Trey” Dennis III was shot while sitting on a front porch with a friend in his native Chicago, according to news reports. Following the shooting, officers said that they believe it was a case of mistaken identity.

As the University community mourns, several of his friends remembered him for his talent, his kindness and his dreams.

“He always had something to say whether it was funny, witty, or philosophical,” said Selina Scott, who worked with Dennis as a Resident Safety Monitor at St. John’s.

“He just knew all the right words to say and that always kept me on my toes with him,” she said.

Scott added, “We hung out a lot during the fall semester, pulling all nighters and ordering pizza, talking all night, and sometimes watching The Lion King just so he could lip-sync every song.”

Even while Scott studied abroad last spring, the two kept in touch and reunited warmly upon her arrival back in the U.S.

She said that they quickly went back to hanging out regularly during the summer while he took classes at the Audio Research Institute, doing everything from furnishing his apartment to watching Orange is the New Black.

“He had watched every season in a week around his classes and texted me every two seconds with questions and expressed how much he loved Samira Wiley’s character, Poussey, and the way she lived and how she loved and respected others,” Scott said.

But his favorite character came as no surprise to her.

“I knew he would like her though because I saw them as the same person,” she said. “They were both passionate about words, cared about people like family, and kept high spirits in hard times because they knew that was the best thing to do.”

“It’s crazy how sudden this was,” said Miracle Bright, one of his co-workers.

“The second I heard, all I could think was there’s no way, who would ever want to hurt him?”

Bright only met Dennis this past year working as an RSM, and she said she wished she had more time to know him.

But despite their time being cut short, his spirit and his friendship have touched her heart for a lifetime.

“I knew him from work, but in those small shifts, I got to know his character,” Bright said. “He was such an influential person, full of light and dreams.”

She added, “He was kind and drifted easily with his goals. It was intoxicating, his vibe. This loss is a great one.”

Dennis was a rising junior at St. John’s studying journalism. According to his friends, his love for writing was evident.

In a YouTube video made by his roommate, Dennis explains his love for poetry, along with his second place victory in Chicago’s “Louder Than A Bomb” competition during his senior year of high school.

“I think that, if you don’t know me you’re going to know me,” he says in the video.

“And if you don’t ever know about me or see me, just know that I’m real vocal about the things I believe in, but don’t ever hold me up to a standard or image. Because I guarantee you I will not live up to it just because you set it for me.”

Not only was Dennis an aspiring writer, but he was also very creative in terms of music.

“I remember he was extremely excited about it, even just showing my friend Matt and I his school ID,” said Maria Salazar Vera, a friend of Dennis’.

Along with being an overall wonderful student, Dennis was passionate about making a difference. He served as a member of the SJU NAACP chapter’s executive board.

His suitemate and friend, Andre Marrero Jr. said, “Trey wanted to change the whole world. Whether it be through movements, music, or anything he could to make it better for the up and coming generation.”

“He was a visionary with aspirations and goals and nothing was going to get in his way,” Marrero said.

And while education was of great importance for Dennis, his family was most important.

Close friend and fellow NAACP e-board member, Alexis Harris, said, “I think Trey’s biggest passion was his mom. He spoke to her every single day.”

Following his death, several news outlets confirmed that Dennis was home in Chicago visiting his mother when he was killed.

Harris talked about how much he spoke about his love for Chicago, but left in order to get away from the dangers of the city.

She said his return showed how much he loved his mother.

Dennis’ father is also a member of the Chicago police force. Addressing the media following his death, Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson rejected the idea that he was targeted because of his father’s status as a police officer.

“He’s a good man, who’s raising a good kid,” Johnson said, speaking about Officer Dennis.

“I’m sure the people in his neighborhood knew he was a police officer. But, there’s absolutely no credibility that he was targeted because he was a police officer.”

“We think it’s simply a case of mistaken identity,” Johnson said. “You got a kid going to St. John’s University, doing what he should’ve been doing.”

In an interview, Harris explained how his positivity and his acting as the mediator in tough situations caused the rest of his fellow e-board members to gravitate toward him.

Dennis wanted to be an example for others that also came from dangerous areas. According to his friends, he created his own movement – that anyone can make something great out of any situation and become somebody. And that is something people from all over can take with them as a lesson.

His love for writing went hand in hand with his passion for poetry and music.

In an interview with Daily Hip Hop Jamz you can find his first EP, which really started his push for music.

“He had an amazing mind, always came with new ideas to NAACP. He was definitely the person to go to if you ever had problems, and he would always give great advice,” said close friend Shania Louis-Byron.

Because of his love and passion for music, Dennis wanted to learn more and even went to school for it.

His friends said wanted to make an impact through writing and music in the black community. They talked about how he knew music could change lives. Louis-Byron said if he wasn’t just being an aspiring journalist, he would have been “a self-conscious rapper like his favorite artist J. Cole is.”

According to his friends, it’s clear that Dennis was not only compassionate, but  also hardworking; an unstoppable combination.

“He made sure to live his life so that he could make a difference and have people remember his name for the things he did,” Scott said.

“Luckily he was doing this at 19, so you knew he was headed for something great. There was no question about that.”

A mass honoring the life of Dennis will be held on Friday at 12:15 pm in St. Thomas More Church.

All members of the University are encouraged to attend.