SMU graduate killed while working as journalist in Ukraine

An American journalist killed in Ukraine had ties to North Texas.

The war in Ukraine has suddenly hit close to home for members of the Southern Methodist University community.

A 1994 graduate of the university was killed by Russian forces just outside the capital city of Kyiv.

MORE: Latest Russia/Ukraine News

Brent Renaud had been traveling with his colleague, Juan Arredondo, to a checkpoint toward the Ukrainian city of Irpin, which is just outside of Kyiv.

Arredondo, who was also injured, described from his hospital bed what happened next.

"We crossed the checkpoint, and they started shooting at us," he recalled. "So the driver turned around, and they kept shooting. It was two of us. My friend, Brent Renaud, and he is shot and left behind."

Thear Suzuki is processing through her pain after Renaud’s death, her dear friend.

"He cared about making a difference," she said. "He cared about contributing to society."

Friends since college, Suzuki, Renaud and others shared a Habitat for Humanity home built by SMU for students to share an inner-city community experience

"He thought about things that normal college students didn't think about," she said. "He had the world on his shoulders already it seemed like at that point."

Renaud was back at his SMU last November when the University of Central Florida played SMU. He was director and cinematographer on an ESPN series about the Florida university.

"And that was the last time we were able to have dinner together," Suzuki said. "I am not surprised that he went to Ukraine because I knew that this was the type of work that he was passionate about in terms of telling the world stories about the impact of war on people."

Renaud used the power of his lens to bring in to focus the global refugee crisis, covering wars in places like Iraq and Afghanistan.

"Not surprised that he was there," Suzuki said. "What I was shocked by Sunday morning was to learn that he would not be coming back, and I would not have an opportunity to hear from him again… I didn't expect him to not come back."

Renaud was in the Eastern European War Theater documenting the global refugee crisis 

"I lost a great friend, and I think about his family, and I hate it for them," Suzuki said. "I think the world has lost a human being who has done so much to help us see what's happening around the world that we would not have had the opportunity to see without his work."

The U.S. State Department said it would not comment on Renaud's death out of respect for his family members but that consular assistance was being offered to them. The state department condemned attacks on news professionals and others documenting the conflict.

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Besieged Ukrainians are holding out hope that renewed diplomatic talks with Moscow on Monday might open the way for more civilians to evacuate. 

It would be the fourth round of talks needed via video conference to discuss getting aid to cities and towns under fire, among other issues. Previous talks have not led to any major breakthroughs.

Meanwhile, 35 other people were killed and dozens more were injured in a strike on a military base near Ukraine’s border with Poland.

RELATED: Russia-Ukraine war: Russian airstrike hits base in western Ukraine, kills 35

It’s the closest attack yet to a NATO-allied country and raised new fears about Russia possibly expanding the war.

The Biden administration has said repeatedly that every inch of NATO territory would be defended, and that includes Poland.