CHICAGO - Verndell Smith was a pillar in the Chicago House music dance scene when he was killed Wednesday after walking out of a Dunkin' Donuts.
His family and his dance students said Thursday his murder has left a hole in the community.
Smith, 32, was grabbing coffee about 11:30 a.m. Wednesday at a Dunkin' Donuts at 74th and South King Drive, five blocks away from his dance studio. When he came out, he was shot and killed.
He was deaf in one ear and partially deaf in the other, but learned to dance to the beat and rhythm of music.
Smith was the founder of the Silent Threat Dance Team that often danced in Chicago's Bud Billiken Parade. The studio was also a safe-haven for children in the Grand Crossing neighborhood on the South Side for 10 years.
Latoya Smith, Verndell's sister, says her brother just recently started drinking coffee.
"One of Verndell's campaigns was stop shooting and start dancing and ironic as it is, three weeks ago, he just started drinking coffee and then he ends up getting shot coming out drinking coffee so it's all ironic," said Latoya Smith. And I know we're not supposed to question God, but right now I honestly don't know what to think. The fact that, there's been students on his dance team that he's talked out of having guns."
Smith leaves behind a 10-year-old son, a family that loves him, and students whose lives he forever positively impacted.
Bud Billiken Parade organizers say Smith’s death is a loss. Smith participated for five years with his dance team but for 20 years, he was a dancer in the parade.
Chicago police are investigating, but no one is in custody. Anyone with any information is encouraged to call Chicago police.