Brandon Merritt had been in Alaska less than one month when he was shot and killed at a Holiday gas station on Abbott Road last week. He grew up here before moving to Hawai’i for his freshman year at Campbell High School in ‘Ewa Beach, where he met Sam Lewis.

“Ever since the day we met, we instantly became extremely close,” Lewis said.

He said Merritt was known for his loyalty as a friend and talents as a writer. He described him as a gifted poet.

“He was a really bright kid,” Lewis added.

When he heard Merritt had been killed, he said he struggled to comprehend what had happened. Lewis said their relationship was more like that of brothers than friends.

“It was overwhelming,” Lewis recalled. “I’ve never lost anybody that was that close to me. I didn’t believe it at first. He was really more of a pacifist than anything and was always looking out for his friends.”

He said Merritt had long talked about moving back to Alaska, and was looking to get a fresh start at life. He added friends and family in the Honolulu area are having difficulty coping with the loss.

“I just couldn’t believe that something like that could happen to someone like him,” Lewis said. “It shocks me that someone could even do that.”

Police say Andrew Robertson-Goughnour shot Merritt. He was charged with first- and second-degree murder.

KTVA 11’s Eric Ruble can be reached via email or on Facebook and Twitter.