ST. ANN - The family of a St. Ann business owner is speaking out after he was murdered in what police say was a case of mistaken identity. Relatives say they are frustrated with the way their loved one has been portrayed by police following his death, and they want to make sure investigators remember he is the victim.
Family and friends of a Talmadge Smith are searching for answers after he was shot and killed at his business, T&P Pit Stop, on January 4th. St. Ann Police Chief Aaron Jimenez said Smith was not the intended target.
Days later, police arrested two people in connection with Smith's murder.
"One out of the two is a very bad individual who's gotten away with other serious crimes including homicide," said Jimenez.
Smith's family says he was a caring person. While other auto repair shops charged higher prices, Smith was willing to cut people a break.
"If you really needed your vehicle fixed, he'd make sure you'd get your vehicle fixed," said Smith's brother, Andrew Glass.
Smith was the youngest of eight siblings. His family affectionately called him "baby."
Smith's sister, LaToya Smith Lewis, said he was a dedicated father to eight kids of his own. Their families were close and often vacationed together.
"He had an oldest boy that was following in his footsteps as far as working on cars, so he was real close with his kids," said Glass.
Smith Lewis said her brother loved working on cars, and he was just two weeks away from moving his family to Atlanta to pursue a new dream.
"He was going to go to school to be an airplane mechanic," she said.
The day Smith was shot, his family says they rushed to the hospital to be by his side. Smith Lewis said they were not given updates about her brother's condition, and they learned of his death when they saw it was reported on the news while they were in the hospital waiting room.
"We didn't want to believe. We said, ‘There's no way that they would tell the news before they tell his family. There's no way,'" said Smith Lewis.
Smith's childhood friend, Alvin Morris, said he was supposed to be with Smith at the shop the day of the shooting but stopped to get a haircut on the way over. He wonders if he could have done something to protect Smith if he had been there.
According to Jimenez, while Smith was not the intended target, investigators found evidence of criminal activity happening at the shop. Smith's family tells Fox 2 he was not involved in illegal activity, and they want to remind everyone he is the victim.
"You get a phone call saying someone was murdered, and you switch this whole case to illegal activities and drugs and everything else," said Glass. "So, are we investigating a murder or are we investigating drugs?”
Jimenez said regardless of what investigators found at the scene, his department has been focused on solving the homicide and getting justice for Smith's family. St. Ann police presented the case to prosecutors last month.
The suspected shooter is in jail on other charges, Jimenez said. The St. Louis County prosecuting attorney will decide if additional charges will be filed.