The younger brother of Baltimore Police Department spokesman T.J. Smith is among the most recent victims of the city's escalating homicides.
Dionay Smith, 24, was found fatally shot at around 8 p.m. Sunday in his home in the 1400 block of Argyle Ave. in the Upton neighborhood, Baltimore Police Lt. Jeremy Silbert said. He was the 173rd person to be killed in Baltimore this year.
His older brother went public with his own grief in a Facebook post and in an interview with a Sun reporter.
"I'm a public person, and this brings everything that I've been talking about full circle," T.J. Smith said in the interview.
"My brother was a good kid. I know that's a cliche, but it's true," he said. "My only hope is that every time I speak out it mobilizes more people in our city to fight violence. No one else's family should ever have to get this phone call."
In the 48 hours after Dionay's death, there were at least three more homicides in Baltimore: Malcolm Parker, 47; Charlie Stevenson, 54; and Ronnie Banks, 56, bringing the total of deaths in 2017 to 176.
As part of Smith's job, he is notified of every homicide in the city. In the interview, he described his shocked disbelief when he recognized his brother's name.
"One of the names I heard was way too familiar," he said.
"My brother is the only person I've ever known with the name Dionay. My stomach sank to the floor. Like many people who have been in that position, I was in denial. I immediately contacted investigators to learn more about the Dionay who was found deceased from a gunshot wound. I also called his cellphone several times. Of course, there was no answer."
There have been no arrests, Silbert said. But police released surveillance video of two men entering the building where Dionay Smith lived. One appears to be carrying a gun.
T.J. Smith believes that his brother knew his assailant.
"He was targeted," T.J. Smith said. "A coward with a gun entered my brother's apartment and shot and killed him."
The Baltimore Police Department issued a brief statement of support for T.J. Smith and his family.
"The Baltimore Police Department family extends it's condolences and prayers to Chief T.J. Smith following the loss of his beloved brother, Dionay," the statement said. "We join the rest of our city as we afford T.J. and his family privacy during this difficult time."
T.J. Smith said that his brother, the father of three toddlers, worked two jobs to support his family and volunteered his time in the Kids Safe Zone, which provides a safe setting in which children can play.
Dionay Smith's children — two boys and a girl, all 2 years old — had spent the day at their father's home, but left a short time before he was shot, T.J. Smith said.
"He was really good-hearted," T.J. Smith said. "He had defied a number of odds, and he was doing every single thing he could to do the right thing."
Despite a significant age difference, the brothers were close, T.J. Smith said. They talked frequently, bantering back and forth as brothers do. The younger brother idolized the elder, and made no secret of it.
"I still looked at him as a kid," T.J. Smith said. "But I was proud of him, and I know that he was proud of me."
He chuckled when he recalled a recent post on Instagram in which his brother reacted with humorous indignation to what he perceived as an official misstep.
"He posted on Instagram that he was going to run for mayor," T.J. Smith said. "That was the thing about Dionay. He always wanted to be part of the solution."