CHICAGO – Family and friends of a 32-year-old man gunned down Wednesday in broad daylight are speaking out, calling on his killer to come forward.
Verndell Smith, nicknamed ‘Little Man’ by family members, known as ‘Vee’ to others, loved to dance. It’s why the 32-year-old created the Ultimate Threat Dance Organization when he was 18, with the latest studio operating at 75th and Eberhart. Smith’s family revealed that he wanted to use the studio to help keep kids in the neighborhood off the streets and safe from gun violence.
The tragic irony: it’s exactly how his life ended the morning of May 19.
“Stop shooting, start dancing,” was Smith’s motto, family members said.
According to police, Smith was walking in the 7400 block of S. King Drive to grab a coffee. That’s when a silver SUV, possibly a Dodge Journey, drove up, and someone inside opened fire.
Smith’s only sister, Latoya, sensed that something was wrong.
“I just got a feeling,” she said. “I was sitting at home, and I thought something is wrong with my brother. My kids thought I was being dramatic.
“I saw online that a 32-year-old man had been shot on King Drive, and I just felt in my spirit that was my brother.”
Police said Smith was shot multiple times. He was taken to the hospital by ambulance and was later pronounced dead.
Ultimate Threat Dance Organization shared on Facebook, “You will be missed. Your legacy will live forever. We love you!” The loss of Smith was felt by all, including Jordan Marshall, who has danced at the studio since 2017.
‘He was not only just a coach, he was a mentor. A father figure,” she said. “Everything we talked, it was always positive.”
Grieving the loss of her son, Smith’s mother said she wants the person(s) responsible for his death to come forward.
“Whoever took my son,” she said, “turn yourself in please.”
A balloon release for Smith is planned for Saturday at 11 a.m. outside the Ultimate Threat Dance Organization studio.
Anyone with information may leave an anonymous tip at cpdtip.com.
LATEST WGN HEADLINES:
- ‘It sucks and I’m scared:’ Blink-182’s Mark Hoppus announces cancer diagnosis
- Anti-violence activists set to walk from Chicago to Washington D.C.
- United Center mass vaccination site to close Thursday
- Northern Illinois University to require all students receive COVID-19 vaccine
- Woman shot, killed in Humboldt Park hours before couple dragged out of car in viral video