Family Mourns the Death of a Dance Coach Who Was Killed near His Studio
A Chicago family is mourning the death of Verndell Smith, a dance coach who was fatally shot near his studio last Wednesday. Smith was a local hero who provided a safe space for children in the community.
Chicago's South Side community is still reeling from the shocking death of Verndell Smith, a 32-year-old dance instructor who was shot and killed by an unknown assailant(s) on the morning of Wednesday, May 19.
According to Chicago Sun-Times, Smith was walking near his studio, the Ultimate Threat Dance Organization, in the Park Manor neighborhood when the driver of a silver SUV drove into the parking lot and opened fire.
Smith was reportedly injured on his leg, torso, and forehead. Paramedics called to the scene rushed him to the University of Chicago Medical Center, but to no avail. He was pronounced dead at the hospital.
Smith's death came as a shock to his family and community, which hailed him as a local hero for the work he was doing for kids in his neighborhood through his dance studio.
A beloved dance coach was shot and killed as he was getting coffee near his dance studio on Chicago’s South side. 32-year-old Verndell Smith was shot multiple times. His family and dance students making an emotional plea for the person responsible to come forward. @nbcchicago pic.twitter.com/Mxj1eQk6mv— Vi Nguyen (@ViNguyen) May 21, 2021
Smith's sister, LaToya Smith, relayed the impact that her brother had on the community and how his motto, "Stop shooting and start dancing," changed the lives of many children. She said:
"He wanted to give other children an outlet to forget their struggles in life."
Smith, who was affectionately known as Vee, started his dance company ten years ago, and through the years, he not only taught children how to dance, but he also encouraged them to stay off the streets and pursue different interests.
The authorities have made no arrests nor do they have an idea of the shooter's possible motive.
Along with his sister, many others spoke of his good deeds, recalling times when he encouraged his young dancers to stop carrying guns and even playing the role of a guardian when needed.
These girls are part of the Ultimate Threat Dance Organization on Chicago’s south side. They are dancing in memory of their coach who was gunned down while getting coffee near the dance studio. They say Verndell Smith was not only a coach, but a father figure to many of them. pic.twitter.com/IUGeXtuBb6— Vi Nguyen (@ViNguyen) May 23, 2021
Fellow dance studio owner, Devoureaux Wolf, called Smith, who danced despite being partially deaf, a "dance legend." While many expressed their affections towards him through words, the community also followed through with action.
On Saturday following the fatal shooting, Smith's family, friends, and students honored his life and influence by releasing hundreds of red, black, and orange balloons outside the Dunkin' Donuts where he was shot.
It's been a week since Smith's tragic death, and the case is still ongoing. According to People, the authorities have made no arrests, nor do they have an idea of the shooter's possible motive.
At the same time, Smith's family and friends are appealing for the shooter to turn himself in. Besides being a dance instructor, brother, and friend to many, Smith was also a father to a 10-year-old boy.
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