Beneath Chicago Lies An Entire Second City Of Ants

When Dionay started explaining how the arrest warrant had come about, Smith wasn’t having it. “I’m not interested in the excuses,” he told his brother. “What’s done is done. Now you have to deal with it.” On April 14, 2017, Dionay appeared before a judge in the District Court of Maryland for Baltimore City wearing the blue sport coat and khaki pants Smith had bought him. According to Smith, Dionay had already worked out a restitution agreement with his former manager, and at the conclusion of the hearing, prosecutors decided not to pursue the charges.

Smith remained concerned. Through his experiences in at-risk communities, he had found that while fatherhood can expedite the maturation process for some young men, it can lead others back to the streets. “When they find something that they can nurture, they want to give them that love that they lacked,” he says. “But they also want to provide them those things that they lacked too—which is a deadly combination, because that can put you out there on the wrong path.”

And an old friend had resurfaced in Dionay’s life. Terrell Gibson, a 21-year-old convicted drug dealer who’d grown up with Dionay in West Baltimore, had been released from prison the previous December after having served 18 months for a stabbing on a public bus. As children, Dionay and Koreah used to stick up for Gibson when the bigger kids in the neighborhood had picked on him. Now that Gibson was out on probation, Dionay wanted to help him get back on his feet, according to Erica McCloud, Dionay’s close friend and a former substance-abuse counselor at Penn North. McCloud says she and Dionay suggested that Gibson enroll in a housing program at Penn North, one that would involve random drug testing. Gibson refused.

At his father’s home, photos and mementos from Dionay Smith’s life (Devin Yalkin)

McCloud was unsettled by Gibson—she wouldn’t bring her daughter around him. She was even more troubled about what the ex-con’s presence meant for Dionay. One day in the summer of 2017, McCloud stopped by Dionay’s apartment earlier than expected and made an ominous discovery. She says that Dionay’s bed was covered in pills, which he was putting into vials. He admitted to her that he’d invested his paycheck in drugs. And although she can’t be 100 percent sure, she came to believe that he had partnered with Gibson. A week and a half later, Dionay was dead.

No End in Sight

Three days after his brother’s killing, Smith was at home when he received a call from Commissioner Davis. Reporters had been reaching out to the department for comment on Dionay’s death; the commissioner hadn’t said anything so far, and he asked for Smith’s input about how to handle the inquiries. Smith had already announced the news in a Facebook post—“A coward with a gun, entered my brother’s apartment and shot and killed him”—but he felt it was important to address the people of Baltimore face-to-face. “I’ll be in in an hour,” Smith responded.

“The day of the funeral doesn’t end it for families,” Smith said. “This goes on forever. There are children now without a father.”>

Instead of wearing his usual jacket and tie, he arrived at police headquarters in shorts and a polo shirt. After receiving hugs from his colleagues, he changed into a pair of jeans and took a seat at a table in the conference room where the media had gathered. Unlike the many dozens of press conferences he’d organized during his two years in the job, this one wouldn’t be live-streamed on the department’s website. Today, Smith wasn’t the spokesman for Baltimore’s beleaguered police force. He was the brother of a murdered man.

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