“The pastor took him under his wing, he was his mentor,” Smith’s cousin, Detrese Abbot, told the paper. “He was someone my cousin looked up to as a father figure. … So much happened that led up to this. I just don’t understand none of this. … They had a relationship and bond that couldn’t be broken. For this to end like this and for them to paint him as a crazy and deranged person, he didn’t want this to come to this.”
Abbot added that her cousin had been a member of the church for four years, but in recent weeks Smith — who was in the midst of a divorce — had begun to lash out on Facebook. He accused the 37-year-old pastor, who remains unidentified, of having an affair with his wife, as well as impregnating her. As the tension brewed in recent weeks, she told the Free Press, Smith began making unsettling statements online about revealing “the truth.”
“He had been saying it for a couple days now, that the truth is going to come out,” Abbot said.
The details of the alleged affair remain unknown, but police said they are investigating claims that the pastor was having an affair with Smith’s wife, according to the Free Press.
“We’ve heard several allegations and are looking into that, but haven’t substantiated anything,” Assistant Chief Steve Dolunt told the Free Press.
Dolunt told the Free Press that Smith showed up at the City of God ministries about 15 minutes into the 1:30 p.m. service Sunday. He was holding a brick and, as soon as he walked inside the building, he went after the pastor, who pulled out a Glock semiautomatic pistol and fired multiple shots. Smith was struck by four or five bullets, including in his torso, Dolunt said.
“We’ve had a previous incident, at least one, and the pastor filed a police report,” Dolunt added.
Smith was transported to a local hospital, where he died, according to the Free Press.
The pastor was questioned by investigators and later released without being charged, according to CBS affiliate WWJ-TV.
The station’s legal analyst, Charlie Lanton, said charges may depend on whether authorities believe the pastor felt like he was in mortal danger, which would allow him to invoke Michigan’s self-defense law.
Although Michigan churches are considered gun-free zones, Langton told the station that state law does allow the head of a church to give others permission to have a gun in church.
Family members, who are still trying to piece together several weeks of events, expressed shock and said things should have turned out differently.
“He was at his wit’s end with this whole situation,” Smith’s cousin, identified as Detrese, told ABC affiliate WXYZ. “It didn’t have to end like this for him; he was a great boy.”