05/02/2014 01:12 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Boy, 9, Killed Defending Sister, 11, From Alleged Sexual Assault

A 9-year-old Virginia boy died Thursday evening trying to protect his older sister from sexual assault, police say.

The siblings were playing together in their backyard around 6:30 p.m., Thursday, when they encountered an individual walking along the nearby train tracks, WRIC reports. The individual allegedly sexually assaulted the 11-year-old girl and cut her face.

Authorities in Richmond say the girl's younger brother attempted to protect his sister, but the suspect allegedly threw a rock at the boy's head, killing the boy instantly.

“To have the courage to defend his sister as if he was a grown man,” said neighbor Sudan Aunu, according to the News and Advance. “His sister is alive today because of him.”

Police said they identified and questioned a male teenage suspect, who is expected to charged in connection with the homicide and assault on the girl.

Another neighbor, Tracy Lightsey, described the siblings as inseparable.

“He felt like he was his sister’s protector,” Lightsey said, according to the Times Dispatch. “He was his sister’s keeper till his death.”

Community members gathered following the tragedy.

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