Terrance B. Smith was trying to be a peacemaker, according to family members and community leaders.
That effort cost him his life, they say, when he was shot to death Friday night on Sussex Street, near Deerfield Avenue, while he was trying to prevent a group of youths from attacking another teenager.
The 18-year-old Bennett High School junior was among a group of young people who had gathered for a planned party, but they ended up standing outside when word spread that the party had been abruptly canceled.
Smith was trying to stop the fight, family members said, when he became caught in the crossfire and was hit by a bullet that was meant for someone else.
"He was an innocent victim," said community activist Dorian Gaskin, vice president of the anti-violence group FATHERS. "He was trying to prevent another kid from getting jumped. He was standing next to the kid they were trying to get.
"I'm shocked because this wasn't him," said Gaskin, who mentored Smith at his high school.
"He was never into gangs or drugs. He had goals and he had a dream. He was a good kid with morals, and he would stand up for what was right."
A Buffalo police spokesman declined to comment on the alleged motive and denied requests by The Buffalo News to interview homicide investigators about the case.
"At this point we're not going to comment on those things," said spokesman Michael J. DeGeorge.
Smith's alleged killer, Lovelle G. Jones, 16, was arraigned Tuesday in City Court before Judge Kevin J. Keane on charges of second-degree murder and criminal possession of a weapon.
With tears rolling down his face and wearing handcuffs, Jones entered a plea of not guilty and is scheduled to appear at a felony hearing Monday.
More than a dozen of the victim's family members, including his mother, sat in the courtroom and stared intently at the teenager accused of taking the life of a talented young man who enjoyed working with his hands and pondered a future as a carpenter -- or even an artist.
Shortly after the arraignment, Lachelle Smith discussed her son inside her Kosciuszko Street home.
She proudly displayed his intricate handiwork -- pencil-drawn portraits of his family members and detailed wood-carved figurines of cartoon characters from Mickey Mouse to Bugs Bunny and Winnie the Pooh.
"He was so talented," Smith said. "He would take cell phones apart and be able to put them back together . . . He was good with his hands."
Two summers ago, the teenager worked as a youth counselor for the Mayor's Summer Youth Program at Martin Luther King Park. An energetic and fun-loving spirit, he enjoyed roller skating, dancing, skateboarding and ice hockey. He also loved ice skating at downtown's Rotary Rink and fishing at the foot of Ferry Street.
"He was funny, always joking and making you laugh," recalled his mother, who also has a 16-year-old daughter, Shatia. "He was my oldest, my first born. It's still hard to believe he was murdered . . . He didn't have any enemies. He had many friends, and he loved his family."
The night Smith was shot, his mother received a telephone call alerting her about the shooting, and she rushed to the crime scene.
She watched in horror as her eldest child lay on the sidewalk covered by a yellow blanket.
"I was hysterical," she said, her voice cracking with pain. "I got sick. I was throwing up . . . I wanted to hold my baby, but they wouldn't let me . . . They didn't want me to go crazy. I held him when he came into this world, but I couldn't hold him when he died."
In addition to his mother, Smith is survived by his father, Paul Thomas; his stepfather, Jose Olds; nine siblings; two stepbrothers; and grandparents.(two grandmothers, a step-grandmother, a grandfather, a step-grandfather, and one great-grandmother).
Services will be at 11 a.m. Thursday in Antioch Baptist Church, 1327 Fillmore Ave.