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'The nicest kid I've ever met': Friends, family remember Ball State student shot and killed

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Posted at 8:58 PM, Jun 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-22 23:45:53-04

MUNCIE — A friendship sparked between neighbors and fellow Ball State University students when their dogs got out, ended when shots were fired at a weekend party near the university's campus.

Blake Smith and Bela Manor met Montana Lopez after their dogs got out. Ever since then, Smith, Manor and Lopez would hang out for hours almost every day.

"Our dogs made friends before we did," Manor said.

While Smith, Manor and Lopez would hang out at each other's houses or parks, the dogs would play. Lopez had an above-ground pool and was teaching the dogs how to swim.

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Montana Lopez and his dog, Pablo.

Lopez was majoring in exercise science. He grew up in the foster care system but didn't let it hold him back.

"He was like literally inspiring to other people," Manor said. "Just helping anyone, even people that didn't necessarily treat him so great, he never hesitated to offer them help or do what he could to help people, which is like wow, you don't see that a lot from people. You don't see them treat people good no matter how they treat you."

Lopez always put other people first, doing what he could to help others. Smith said he was helping her roommate struggling to pay for college by connecting them with resources.

"He was the nicest kid I've ever met, honestly," she said. "I mean he would do anything for anyone. He's always been there to give because he said he wasn't always given a lot so anytime he sees someone who needs help, he's always there to help them. I've always seen that from him."

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The 1300 block of West Abbott Street isn't filled with dogs playing, the trio hanging out and Lopez helping others anymore. It's now frequented by officers and detectives following up with neighbors and trying to figure out who shot and killed Lopez.

The doggie play dates and warm summer days spent hanging out ended early Saturday morning.

Before Smith and Manor went to a bar, they stopped by the party at Lopez's house and Smith talked with an officer when police were called to the party for a noise complaint on Friday night.

"I was with Montana and we were just talking to the cops, again everything was fine, he was just, you know 'We're getting some calls, noise complaints, you know, turn the music down,'" Smith said. "So I had introduced myself to this cop because, you know, I like to get my name out there and have good relationships with the cops."

The next time the cop spoke to Smith was a few hours later, now early Saturday morning, after Lopez was shot and killed. They came home from the bar after getting an emergency alert from the university.

Smith said she was at the police department with other people who were at the party until 7 a.m., trying to help police figure out what happened and who shot and killed Lopez.

It's a question Muncie Police Department detectives are trying to answer.

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Funny, easy to talk to and the most outgoing person Smith has met. Those are just a few things she said describes how she's remembering Lopez.

"It's just sad to see someone go that really, you know, deserved to be here," she said. "He worked hard, he was on the honor roll at school, just a really, really good kid. And I know he came from a pretty rough situation. He found a lot of light in that and pretty influential when he would talk about it to other people."

After a balloon release with friends, family and the community, Lopez's sister came to visit Smith and Manor. They had never met before this.

"She came over, you know knocked on our door, thanked us for being so close to him," Smith said. "I guess he always talked about us. He was like 'These girls down the street are so nice' so she wanted to come and say thanks for always being there for him."

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Both Smith and Manor said it's been nice to see the community coming together to remember him and help his family.

"There's definitely been a lot of outpouring support from people in the community," Manor said. "Students and other Muncie local people just being there for his family, trying to organize like memorials and the balloon release and all that stuff. That's been really nice to see so many people supporting him."

His sister, Santeanna Soriano, said she's remembering her little brother for his laugh and someone who was always smiling.

Funeral services, a celebration of life and a candlelight vigil are scheduled for Wednesday.

A GoFundMe created to help support the family has raised more than $5,500.

WRTV reached out to police by email on Tuesday afternoon for an update and is awaiting a response. Delaware County Prosecutor Eric Hoffman said he didn't have any updates and MPD detectives are still investigating the homicide.