CHICAGO (CBS) — He was so beloved and so involved in his community, friends and family say it’s disgusting to think why anyone would want to kill dance coach Verndall Smith.
Verndall, known as Vee, was a mentor to countless children in Chicago. Although he was hard of hearing, he was a great dancer. His family said he kept rhythm by feeling the beat through the floor.READ MORE: Chicago Weather: Storms Headed Our Way After Midnight; Damaging Winds And Heavy Rain Possible
Now his team is picking up where he left off.
The flawless footwork from Silent Threat Dance Team is just some of what Vee leaves behind. He opened the dance studio in the grand crossing neighborhood. They have marched in the Bud Billikin Parade and competed at the highest levels.
But now the team is without its leader, and a 10-year-old boy is without his father.
“I’m so angry. I’m angry,” said Vee’s sister LaToya Smith. “I’m mad. I feel like I let my brother down.”
Ariel Pryor, once a member of the team, said Vee believed in her when no one else did. “He’s literally a mentor. Everbody has a mentor, somebody they’re like this with,” she said.
Vee built the studio to give children something to do, a diversion from the dangers of the neighborhood. He coined the hashtag #stopkillingandstartdancing.READ MORE: Years After Promise Of $100,000 From State And Photo-Op Prop Check, AMVETS Post 14 In Clinton, Illinois Has Not Seen A Dime
Vee was shot and killed Wednesday in a drive-by shooting blocks away from his studio. He was out grabbing a cup of coffee. Bullet holes were still visible Thursday at the Dunkin Donuts in the 7400 block of South King Drive.
“I did hear the gunshots,” said Pryor. “It was several.”
“As devastated as I am right now that my brother is gone, I feel happy and proud of everything he accomplished,” said LaToya.
In addition to the dance community recognizing the positive impact the 32-year-old made, names like Chance the Rapper also spoke on the pain of his loss. He tweeted “This is crazy.”
“My brother was put on this earth to help these children, and someone took that away from him,” said LaToya.
The organizers of the Bud Billikin Parade released a statement expressing their condolences after Vee’s death:MORE NEWS: Some Residents Say A Bears Move To Arlington Heights Would Benefit Community, Others Say It Would Bring Unwelcome Traffic And Crowds
On behalf of the entire Chicago Defender Charities family we join our Bud Billiken Performing Arts League Dance Community in giving our deepest condolences to our dear friend Verndell “Vee” Smith.His expertise in dance influenced the start of his own organization, terming the phrase “Stop Killing and Start Dancing” in reference to Chicago’s violence over the last few years. He opened his own dance studio, where his team placed first in many dance competitions throughout the Chicago area.Our hearts go out to Ultimate Threat Dance Team, we lost an irreplaceable soul that had a heart of gold. Our staff at the Chicago Defender Charities extend our warmest regards as we join with Ultimate Threat Dance Team and continue to #DoItForVee as we Parade in Peace and honor Coach Vee’s Legacy. #StopKillingAndStartDancing
No one is in custody in the shooting.