Family of Peoria homicide victim believes bullets weren’t meant for him

Published: Nov. 10, 2022 at 10:25 PM CST
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PEORIA (25 News Now) - Merian Smith was a football player just weeks away from turning 16, but his life was cut short after he was shot and killed in Peoria.

Smith has become the city’s 23rd homicide victim this year, and his family believes the bullets were not meant for him.

“He was respectful, lovable, you asked him to do something, and he would do it,” said his stepmother, Bibiana Enrriquez.

“He loved his family, he loved his friends,” said Jyair Shard, who was one of those friends.

“The connection we had...he’d ride with me everywhere,” said Smith’s father, Adrian Burnside.

Friends, family and dozens more are remembering Smith, who was 15.

“He’s a peacemaker. He’s a family young man and he loved everybody,” said his aunt, Latisha Bailey.

The football player and sophomore at Peoria High School was shot Monday near Quest Charter Academy Middle School. He died on Wednesday.

His family says Smith was visiting his brother that afternoon when he was shot outside. Another teen was also shot, but survived.

Smith’s mother talked about her initial reaction to finding out her son was shot.

“When she told me what she told me, I just dropped the phone and I started screaming,” continued Smith’s mother, Anita Brewer, “We know that this was not meant for him. He wasn’t in gangs. He didn’t do drugs.”

Aside from sports, Smith took advantage of the resources around him to better himself. He was involved in mentorship programs like ELITE and Product of the Project.

“I’ve seen him grow,” said Melvin Timothy, a mentor to Smith with ELITE, “I went to prison at 15, he lost his life at 15. So, I wish I could have done more.”

“With him having his family and the village around him, his father, he had us, he had ELITE...I just think that he had a lot of fellowship and good characteristics around to make him become who he could,” said Antwan Banks, another of Smith’s mentors and founder of Product of the Project.

Now, Smith’s family is picking up the pieces only weeks away from his 16th birthday.

“I’m at a loss for words,” said Brewer.

Peoria Police are not providing updates on the investigation, or information about possible suspects.