An eight-year old boy was beaten to death as he reportedly tried to stop his 12-year-old sister from being raped.
The boy and his sister were playing near their home in Richmond, Virginia on Thursday night when a stranger allegedly approached and began to sexually assault the young girl.
When her brother tried to stop the attack, the stranger threw a rock at his head, according to local station WWBT.
The boy was pronounced dead at the scene by local police officers, who have since apprehended the suspect, a teenage male.
Neighbours raised the alarm when they spotted the 12-year-old girl running naked and covered in blood out of the nearby woods.
She was taken to hospital with bruises and lacerations while police officers collected evidence and neighbours gathered for an impromptu prayer.
“To have the courage to defend his sister as if he was a grown man,” neighbour Sudan Aunu told Richmond Times Dispatch.
“His sister is alive today because of him,” he added.
A local pastor, Dr Theodore Hughey, said the boy and his sister were “never apart”.
Both siblings attended nearby Redd Elementary School, where grief counsellors are helping students and staff deal with the traumatic event.