HOWARD COUNTY, MD — Former Oakland Mills High School and Marshall University football player Larry Aaron III, who was paralyzed from the waist down after being struck by gunfire during a New Year’s party, died Thursday at age 19.
Family members said Aaron died at Frederick Memorial Hospital as a result of complications from the injury.
He had been shot after gunfire broke out during a party in Severn on Jan. 1. He had been shielding his girlfriend when he was struck, said his mother, Melissa Aaron.
“As a family, we are at a loss for words. With broken hearts, we would like to share that today Larry was called home,” his mother said Thursday. “He fought so hard and showed an enormous amount of strength. His strength in the midst of adversity has always been resilient and we couldn’t have asked for anything more from him.”
Aaron was a 2016 graduate of the Columbia high school, where he played football, basketball and baseball. A rising redshirt sophomore on the Marshall football team, he made 13 tackles while playing in eight games for Marshall this past season.
Marshall head football coach Doc Holliday issued a statement saying the university “lost a very special young man today and it has shocked and saddened us all. Our thoughts and prayers are with all of Larry Aaron’s family and friends, many of whom were his fellow Thundering Herd teammates.
“His loss will be felt in every corner of our program and his spirit will never be forgotten,” Holliday said.
In the wake of the shooting, Anne Arundel County police offered a $10,000 in reward for information leading to an arrest in the incident. On Thursday, police issued a release regarding Aaron’s death, and said detectives are now investigating the case as a homicide.
In recent weeks, Aaron had been living at his sister’s house in Carroll County, and told a reporter for the Howard County Times that he was scheduled to start physical and occupational therapy in early March.
“I don’t want to be like this forever, so I’ve got to do what I’ve got to do to get better,” Aaron said, adding that community support and his family were serving as his motivation.
His drive and determination, along with sense of humor, were among his defining characteristics, according to his mother.
“As we remember Larry, we think of his smile and laughter that could fill a whole room. His jokes were the kind that would still have you laughing hours later,” Melissa Aaron said. “All of the room in his heart was filled with love for his family and friends.”
Earlier this month — in a display of solidarity among Howard County public schools — boys and girls basketball teams around the area donned green “93 Strong” T-shirts, reflecting the number he wore as a member of the Thundering Herd, during warmups before their Feb. 2 games.
Aaron attended the Oakland Mills vs. Hammond boys basketball game, which served as a benefit, and watched as his alma mater honored him with a double-digit victory.
“Much love,” he said after the game. “That’s all I can say.”
“He loved the game,” said his mother. “From football to basketball and baseball, he spent a majority of his time doing what he loved to do. He found lifelong family in his teammates. Combined, we have endless memories to hold on to and we look forward to celebrating the caring, generous, brave, and kind soul of our son, brother, uncle, nephew and friend.”
Oakland Mills boys basketball coach Jon Browne, who coached Aaron for three years on varsity from 2013-2016, said the news of his death hit him and the school community particularly hard.
“It’s beyond devastating, man, it really is,” Browne said. “Larry was one of those kids that come through your program and you just never forget. He was what I guess you would call a gentle giant, a kid at heart in this towering body.
“Yeah, he was the guy in the locker room always having fun and people just naturally gravitated toward him. He was our ringleader of nonsense in the locker room, but in the best way possible, and when it came down to it he was also as fierce a competitor as they come. Just a truly special kid.”
Melissa Aaron said community support has meant the world to the family.
“No words can describe our pain,” she said. “We ask that you continue to keep our family in your thoughts and prayers. We are forever thankful for your support.
“We are so grateful that Larry had the opportunity to touch so many lives.”
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Marshall University announced it will hold a fundraiser in Aaron’s memory at its men’s basketball game Saturday against Charlotte.