FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) –When Mario Davaughn Smith, Jr. was shot twice in the chest at a party on Milton Street, he was on the phone with his cousin. Things were getting rowdy and he was worried.
Mario called out his cousin’s name and then the cousin heard gunshots. Then, the phone went silent.
The cousin tracked Mario’s iPhone to the 1000 block of Milton Street. His aunt, Louise Smith, and uncle, Clay Washington, rushed there, only to witness their nephew, affectionately known as Mookie Man, being wheeled out of the house as medics worked to save his life.
Medics transported Smith Jr. to a hospital where he later died. The Allen County Coroner ruled his death a homicide due to gunshot wounds to the chest.
The family finally saw the 17-year-old victim Friday, the day they met with WANE at Pilgrim Baptist Church to tell their story. Like many families, they’ve done their own investigation, shocked that a good kid like Mario could be gone.
The party, they told WANE, was at a house where a teenage girl lived with an older relative, who was possibly unaware that adolescents had gathered at the home. When trouble broke out, Mario tried to break up the fight, his family said.
It was a role they could easily see him taking. Mario and his two sisters lived with their aunt, Louise Smith, and her children after their mother died from a seizure. The children were at their mother’s side when the ambulance came and took her away, a traumatic event that changed the outgoing nine-year-old into a boy who withdrew socially.
“Watching his mom pass away before his eyes, getting carried out in the ambulance and never coming back, his whole life changed. He retreated,” Menzies explained.
He became his sisters’ protector even though Javonna and Devonna are a year or two older, his aunt, LaTania Menzies, said Friday speaking for the family. The family became concerned about him, as he stayed quiet, even at family gatherings.
Mostly, he talked to his sisters and sometimes to his male cousins who are close in age, Menzies said. The family was happy to see him come out of his shell this year, his senior year at Wayne, and sign up for wrestling. He’d always been involved in music in some way, they said.
And Mario got himself a girl. She was with him at the party, a party his family wished he’d never been invited to.
“Mario was a great kid,” Menzies said. “He was kind, he was humble. He was quiet. He was helpful. He was considerate of people. I’m not trying to paint a picture that he was perfect. He was not perfect, as we know none of us are. He wasn’t a street kid. Nor was he a thug. He wasn’t a violent kid.”
Louise Smith will never forget the experience at Lutheran Hospital. After she was told the hospital had a “John Doe body,” she went there to see him but was turned away, as police protocol seems to require. Since then, she’s hoped for a call from the detective in charge of the case.
Like so many families recovering from the initial shock of a homicide, they feel left out of the police investigation. Why haven’t they been able to collect his belongings? Why aren’t more people arrested? After all, it was a party. And why was the identification of his body done by photo ID?
“We want to be involved every step of the way. Call us, text us, I don’t care. Inbox us on Facebook. However. Come to our homes. We don’t want to be a bother. We want them to do the job at hand. We don’t want a rushed investigation. We don’t want to be disregarded. We want to be informed on what’s going to take place,” Menzies said.
They will get their answers, just not today as the investigation continues. The 14-year-old boy arrested and charged with murder has not been identified, although the family expects him to be waived to adult court. He was arrested the day after Mario was killed.
“This family has demonstrated a tremendous amount of strength and fortitude and even being here today,” Raymond Dix, Pilgrim Baptist’s senior pastor, said Friday as he spoke and prayed with the family. “They have come forward looking for help from the FWPD and also from the community. Pray for this family. Stand with them. Because God in his infinite wisdom has chosen this family to be vessels of righteousness through this situation.”