LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Nearly three months after 16-year-old Tyree Smith was shot and killed while waiting for his school bus, two arrests have been made in connection to his death.
During a Dec. 9 press conference, Louisville Metro Police announced two juveniles, both 16-years-old, were arrested and charged on Wednesday.
Lt. Donny Burbrink said the teens are being charged with multiple charges including:
- Complicity to Murder
- Complicity to Assault I
- Complicity to Assault II
Burbrink said that although arrests have been made, LMPD is still actively investigating the case.
"This case will continue being investigated until the trail is over. We're not gonna say we have everybody, we're not gonna say we don't have everybody," he said. "We're still gonna chase down every lead, we're still gonna talk to everybody we can talk to."
On the morning of Sept. 21, three students were hit by gunfire while waiting for their bus at W.J. Hodge and Chestnut Street in the Russell neighborhood. Smith, a student at Eastern High School, died from his injuries at the hospital. The other two students suffered non-life-threatening injuries.
A vehicle of interest involved in the shooting was found on fire in St. Matthews the day after the shooting, but no suspects have been publicly announced. A $10,000 reward was available for any information that led to an arrest.
Sherita Smith, Tyree's mother, said in a phone interview that she has waited more than two months for answers, justice and a path toward closure.
"Trying to stop my little 5-year-old from crying every night, wondering if his brother is coming home," Smith said back in September. "All I can tell him is that, 'Your brother really loves you, and he's in a better place.'"
Chaplain Stachelle Bussey has led many social justice protests in Louisville and has been in close talks with Smith during this process.
"Her spirits are high, and I love the way she's staying involved," Bussey said.
Now, with these arrests, Smith might finally have some semblance of relief -- in the midst of what's becoming more common: Kids involved in killing other kids.
Jefferson County Public Schools released the following statement after the announcement of the arrests saying:
"What happened to Tyree Smith was tragic and left our JCPS family heartbroken. His death impacted our entire community and raised awareness about the need for change. Youth violence is an issue we all must address. There is no single solution, or perfect answer. But through collaboration and unity we can find new avenues to bring hope to young people across our city."
Following the arrests, community members have been left with mixed feelings.
Cassandra Harris-Gray, the clinical director for Creative Spirits Behavioral Health said there is no winner in this situation.
"Tyree lost his life," she said. "Two teens are now about to too, their lives are about to be changed forever."
Bussey said these arrests, while necessary, serve as a reminder of what she calls a system that continues to let kids down.
"We as a community have failed them," Bussey said. "We as a community have robbed them of the resources that they need to have a life that's comfortable. These kids are living in war zones, where there are no grocery stores, where the houses are boarded up, where the street lights barely work.
"They pick up guns because they don't have options. When our gun violence numbers are down, when our suicide rates are down, when our overdoses are down... That's when we are winning."
Meanwhile, neighbors are pleading for the community to understand the impact this is having on many other young JCPS students too -- having to cope through this trauma.
"I came out here, and the first thing I saw was a lot of backpacks in the street, kids and cars. It was chaos," said Mark Pence, who lives close by the scene of the shooting and witnessed the aftermath. "It's a child that's no longer living, but it's also children, babies, who are getting ready to spend some time away, and that's going to alter and affect their lives. They often continue lives of crime and the cycle keeps going."
We also spoke with Antonio Taylor and NyRee Clayton-Taylor, a couple arguably as connected to Louisville's youth as anyone. NyRee works in the school system, and with her husband, they guide The Real Young Prodigys -- a teen hip-hop group organized to educate others and cope with trauma.
"Understanding how precious life is, it's a constant conversation we have with our youth," Antonio Taylor said. "They constantly want to raise the awareness that this is not normal for communities. It is not normal for youth to be killing youth. It's urgent to them."
Every week they see and hear kids struggling, desperate for someone to listen.
"Our kids are facing issues that we as adults have not had to face," Clayton-Taylor said.
The cry for help has overflowed, even more after the arrests of the two 16-year-olds.
"The tragedy is that we thought we lost one JCPS student when we lost three," Taylor said.
"There are no winners," Clayton-Taylor said. "We have to think about the lives of the students on the bus stop. It's a domino effect for our community, how students are going to be sitting in classrooms. What are they going to be thinking about?"
Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Emily Lantz confirmed to WHAS 11 it's too early to see if the two teenagers will be tried as adults in court.
Again, because they're juveniles, their identities haven't been released.