Friends say Carl M. Smith probably would have joined them Saturday at a retreat to teach young people how to avoid violence.
Instead, the 17-year-old Bennett High School junior who lived at his mother's home in Cheektowaga died Friday night in his brother's embrace after being shot in the face.
"I'm about to die," Carl told his 18-year-old brother, Curtis J. Smith Jr., who had gone with him to a party in an abandoned East Side house.
A gunman had entered a side alley beside the 2 1/2 -story house at 648 E. Utica St. and shot a small caliber weapon through a boarded-up window into the house where as many as 60 young people were gathered listening to music and dancing. One of the bullets struck Carl's jaw and traveled into his neck, where it severed his jugular vein.
"I had been playing dice when I grabbed Carl and pulled him down. I told him 'you're not dying, you're not dying,' " Curtis Smith said.
Detectives were continuing their search for an individual wearing a No. 7 Michael Vick jersey who fled the house. Family members said they heard the shooter was wearing a hooded sweat shirt.
At Saturday's Boys and Men Retreat in McKinley High School, Neal Mack, a young hip-hop singer, told of how he had gone to the house on East Utica after word had spread Friday night that Carl Smith had been shot. "I feel hurt. There's so many young people getting killed with guns," said Mack.
Organizers of the retreat said Carl probably would have been among the 200 young people who participated Saturday.
"A lot of his friends are here today, and a lot of them were at the party last night. I'm sure Carl was planning to be here today," said Jacqueline Mines, president of the St. Augustine Center, one of the retreat's sponsors.
Several workshops were conducted -- all aimed at giving young people alternatives to street life.
Her voice hoarse from grieving Saturday afternoon, Kimberly Barnes told of how her son, the second oldest of her four children, was looking forward to becoming a father. "It was his first child, a son, expected in a couple months," she said.
A wake is set for 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday in Providence Funeral Home, 1275 Sycamore St., where funeral services will be held at 10 a.m. Thursday.