A Second Louisville Activist, Kris Smith, Has Been Found Dead
His death comes just weeks after 21-year-old protester Travis Nagdy was found dead from gunshot wounds.
December 14, 2020 at 7:22 pm
Louisville, Kentucky is mourning again after protest leader Kris Smith was found shot to death in his car on Friday afternoon, according to The Louisville Courier-Journal.
Smith's untimely passing comes just weeks after 21-year-old protester Travis Nagdy was found dead from gunshot wounds in November.
Local news outlet WAVE reported that a vigil was held in his honor. The outlet spoke with Montez Jones, one of Smith's friends.
“We done been incarcerated, did time together. Me and him both, but who am I to judge that? And look what happened, he got out and wanted to take a stance,” Jones said. ”We still mourning Travis [Nagdy].”
Others who attended the vigil told Spectrum News 1 that Smith's death made little sense considering his positive impact on the community.
“This is sad; like, this guy didn’t have no enemies. None. And enemies he did have, that’s the reason why he got in the system, but he changed his life after he did his time, and he hit the streets, ground, like full forward. He’s educated. He gave back to the kids,” Smith's friend Chris Wells told Spectrum News 1.
Local pastor Stachelle Bussey told the Courier-Journal that she was with Smith's wife when she identified the body.
Police have denied that there are any connections between the shootings of Smith and Nagdy but said they are investigating both in a statement to the Courier-Journal.
"Just like everybody else, he was finding his niche, finding his voice. We're mourning one, then we lose another. … With Travis, I lost a brother. Today we lost another one," Bussey told the newspaper. "Our communities are under-resourced…People should be able to change their life around and be given a fair chance to live that changed life."
Many of his friends have taken to social media to spotlight the good work he did in the community.
Last month, Smith spoke to the Courier-Journal about Nagdy's passing, telling the newspaper that he is "gonna be missed over here because he was really one of the good ones.”
The two men's deaths are part of a larger spike in killings across Louisville, which has blown past previous records for homicides with more than 150. The previous record for the city was in 2016 with 117. Of the more than 150 homicide victims this year, Black people account for 71%.
“The community is hurting. He was well-loved in the community. Anytime that he got on the megaphone, and he spoke, you wanted to listen,” protester Le’Andrea McCampbell said in an interview with Spectrum News 1. "Like give you the shirt off of his back. He is just, he’s gonna be so missed. He is gonna be so missed. The community is really hurting right now.”
Police have not identified any suspects in Nagdy's shooting but shared photos with the Courier-Journal of two men who were seen driving away in a four-door, black, late model Dodge Ram truck after Smith's shooting.
Both Smith and Nagdy were quoted extensively by local and national media but also helped organize people during the protests over the killing of Breonna Taylor. After a rough childhood and stints in prison, Smith was able to turn his life around and find his way.
In 2015, he was lauded as a hero after two men entered a convenience store and began shooting randomly. Smith shot one of the assailants. He then started the Family Ties Security Group and the Louisville Phoenix Initiative as a means to deal with the city's gun violence.
“I’m trying to get these printers and stuff so I can get these kids to start printing off their T-shirts and making their own T-shirts to sell, instead of selling drugs. You can’t say you want people to quit selling drugs and get off the street if you don’t give them anything to do to keep money in their pockets,” Smith told the Courier-Journal last month.
Smith supported his community while also grieving multiple family deaths. His brother died of a heart attack at the age of 32 last year and his sister died from Parkinson’s disease earlier this year.
But that did not stop him from taking part in protests for Taylor. His livestream video of one protest was used by major news outlets covering the killing of David McAtee, a local restaurant owner who was shot by police.
The shootings of Nagdy and Smith bear a resemblance to the spate of deaths that occurred to activists after the protests in Ferguson, Missouri following the killing of Michael Brown. Six of the leading activists during those protests were found dead in mysterious cases.
In his interview with WAVE, Jones noted how frustrating it was that there were no suspects or leads in both shootings.
”Ain’t no arrest been made, the only arrest that was made was on (protest photographer) Tyler Gerth…Other than that, Travis, they ain’t got nobody, and look at Kris, they ain’t got nobody,” Jones said.