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Requiem for a Rapper

Why was Kenny Smith shot by police? While his family and friends wait for answers, they ponder the tragic loss of a promising artist

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Officer Jones is currently back on the job after a period of time on desk duty. Repeated calls for comment to Cleveland Police Patrolmen's Association President Jeffrey Follmer were not returned by press time. But following the shooting in March, the union president told Fox 8: "The officer was in fear of his life. There were no ifs, ands, or buts, he was in fear for his life, he acted as a hero."

But the prospect of a police officer possibly under the influence at the time of a deadly shooting doesn't sit well with Smith's family and friends – especially considering that so much of the official story runs counter to the Kenny Smith they knew.

In particular, they have trouble digesting the idea that Smith would make a grab for a gun on a police officer. Friends note that he stayed out of trouble and had a clean record, and say he was more likely to avoid throwing punches than turning violent. "He was more cautious than anything," says Ferguson. "I'm sure when he saw someone coming up he was scared. Especially if it was a police officer."

Smith had no interest in guns, even though his mother tried to outfit him for protection. Shauna Smith had recently obtained a conceal carry license, but when she suggested to her son that he do the same, he shook off the idea. "He just said, 'No, I'm not into guns,'" she says.

Devonta Hill was known to have a gun, friends say, although both Hill and Purdie were released the morning after the shooting. Neither were charged following the incident. Attempts to contact both for this story were unsuccessful; friends say neither Hill nor Purdie have consistent phone numbers.

In the immediate aftermath of the shooting, Smith's death was largely written off in media accounts as another street hood getting his due, with "aspiring rapper" used as shorthand for "thug." Not so, Shauna Smith maintains.

"I know my son."

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