When Devin Aryal was in the room, there was never a quiet moment. "Half the time you wouldn't know what he was talking about," Pam Reilly, Devin's child care provider in Oakdale, Minn., told msnbc.com. The nine-year-old enjoyed sharing stories about his experiences at school or the tactics he used to advance to the next level in a video game. He even talked to the characters on his Nintendo DSi, especially when he was angry or frustrated. He also questioned the unknown: "What is a Golden Birthday? What are blue moons? Why do the lights flash on emergency vehicles?" He dreamed of becoming an astronaut because science intrigued him. "He was wondering what is up there," his mother, Melissa Aryal, told msnbc.com. "He wanted to explore."
A happy-go-lucky fourth-grader who never had a time-out for bad behavior, Devin confronted bullies at school and socialized with classmates if he thought they appeared lonely. "He didn't have a single enemy. Everybody loved him," Aryal said. When his best friend's parents divorced last summer, Devin offered consolation because he had experienced a similar situation six years ago. "That's all right. You go to Dad's. You go to Mom's. You get extra presents at Christmas."
Each morning and afternoon, Devin and eight other children walked across the street to and from Reilly's child care to Oakdale Elementary School. One of his friends had difficulty walking, so Devin always held her hand. Everywhere he went, Devin brought his Nintendo DSi with him. He anticipated seeing his friends in the morning to find out which level of "Ninjago" they beat overnight. If Devin's friends worked on their homework after school, he sat with them and completed his assignments. But on Friday afternoons, he preferred to procrastinate schoolwork until Sunday evenings.
Each night he slept on the bottom bunk bed with his Chihuahua mix, Niko. He avoided disturbing the top mattress because it was home to more than 50 stuffed animals he won from arcade claw cranes. Always chatty, Devin had the last word. "I love you, Devin," his mother would say, and he would reply, "I love you more, to infinity. You can't beat that."
Devin was fatally shot while riding in his family's minivan on the way home from day care on Feb. 11 in Oakdale. A 34-year-old man standing at an intersection shot randomly at passing motorists. Two women, including Devin's mother, were wounded during the incident.