Dance studio

Chicago dance studio creator gunned down, killed in daylight shooting

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CHICAGO — The family and friends of a 32-year-old man shot dead Wednesday in broad daylight are speaking out, calling on his killer to come forward.

Verndell Smith, nicknamed “Little Man” by family members, known as “Vee” to others, loved to dance. That’s why the 32-year-old created the Ultimate Threat Dance Organization when he was 18, with the last studio operating at 75th and Eberhart. Smith’s family revealed that he wanted to use the studio to help keep neighborhood children off the streets and safe from gun violence.

The tragic irony: this is exactly how his life ended on the morning of May 19.

“Stop shooting, start dancing,” was Smith’s motto, family members said.

According to police, Smith was walking around the 7400 block of S. King Drive for coffee. Just then a silver SUV, possibly a Dodge Journey, drove up and someone inside opened fire.

Verndell Smith

Smith’s only sister, Latoya, sensed something was wrong.

“I just had a feeling,” she said. “I was sitting at home and I thought something was wrong with my brother. My kids thought I was being dramatic.

“I saw online that a 32-year-old man had been shot on King Drive, and I just felt in my mind that he was my brother.”

Police said Smith was shot multiple times. He was taken to hospital by ambulance and later pronounced dead.

Ultimate Threat Dance Organization shared on Facebook, “We will miss you. Your legacy will live forever. We love you!” Smith’s loss was felt by all, including Jordan Marshall, who has been dancing at the studio since 2017.

“He wasn’t just a coach, he was a mentor. A father figure,” she said. “Everything we talked about was always positive.”

Mourning the loss of her son, Smith’s mother said she wants the person or persons responsible for his death to come forward.

“Whoever took my son,” she said, “please surrender.”

A balloon release for Smith is scheduled for Saturday at 11 a.m. outside the Ultimate Threat Dance Organization studio.

Anyone with information can leave an anonymous tip at