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The tragic shooting of Kris Smith in Louisville, Kentucky, signaled a disturbing string of Black Lives Matter protesters whose lives have been lost to gun violence or mysterious deaths.

According to the Louisville Courier-Journal, Smith, 42, was fatally shot Friday. His body was discovered inside of a car and identified by a local chaplain. There were no suspects in custody as of Monday.

Smith is the second activist following the shooting of Hazma “Travis” Nagdy to be murdered in the wake of Breonna Taylor demonstrations and a surge of gun violence in the city. He was added to the more than 150 people who were killed in Louisville in the past year.

In his community, Smith was known as an activist and blossoming business owner who was able to transform his life out of devastating circumstances.

“Just like everybody else, he was finding his niche, finding his voice” at the protests, his friend Stachelle Bussey told the Courier-Journal. “We’re mourning one, then we lose another. … With Travis, I lost a brother. Today we lost another one.”

Smith’s loved ones launched a GoFundMe to raise money for his wife and four children who are left behind.

“We have all grown to love Kris Smith for many reasons, especially for his social justice work in the community,” reads a portion of the GoFundMe’s description. “He was a family oriented man with four young children of his own. Who are left without a father, protector and provider. Kris recently established his own security business in efforts to build a secure future and provide for his family. He also wanted to show his children and others to always stand up and have a voice for what’s right.”

Smith grew up in poverty on the city’s West End, where he was placed in foster care as a teen after shoplifting. At the age of 18, he was jailed after selling imitation crack-cocaine, completing a 10-year bid after the people he sold to accused him of robbery and assault. In 2015, a few years after he was released, on his way to a convenience store he shot one of two men who had fired into a crowd, which ultimately saved lives. But because of his former conviction, he was sent to prison where he spent almost four years.

Last year Smith opened up a local business, Family Ties Security Group, and formed an organization to mentor local youth called the Louisville Phoenix Initiative.

The protests surrounding Taylor were where Smith found a community among other organizers calling attention to the 26-year-old EMT and the shooting of David McAtee.

Smith is the third of his mother’s children to die in the past year. His brother succumbed to a heart attack last year and his sister lost her battle with Parkinson’s sometime this year.

While police say the shootings are unrelated, they point to a growing number of former activists and protest leaders who have lost their lives under unforeseen circumstances. The killing of activists in Louisville follows a similar pattern in Ferguson, where at least six organizers were killed or found dead following the Mike Brown shooting and subsequent investigation.

Louisville Metro Police said it was looking for a 4-door, Black Dodge truck with chrome trimming and tires in the back. Anyone with information that may lead to an arrest is being asked to contact the LMPD at 502-574-LMPD.


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