LITTLE ROCK — Daris Long and Melvin Bledsoe don’t have much in common.
Long is a white, burly, bearded former Marine who spent much of his youth in Afghanistan. Bledsoe is a black businessman who owns of a successful tour bus company in Memphis.
They both have loving wives and raised children to work hard, respect their country and obey the law.
Their lives became forever intertwined at 10:19 a.m. on June 1, 2009.
That is when Bledsoe’s son, Carlos, a convert to Islam who changed his name to Abdulhakim Muhammad, shot and killed Long’s son, Army Pvt. William “Andy” Long of Conway, outside a west Little Rock military recruiting center. Pvt. Quinton Ezeagwula of Jacksonville was wounded in the shooting rampage.
Muhammad pleaded guilty to capital murder and attempted capital murder in 2011, and was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Since then, Daris Long and Melvin Bledsoe have developed a friendship that centers around family loyalty, support and their desire to set the record straight on their personal ordeals.