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Family grieves after man killed by driver fleeing police

By A.J. Bayatpour

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    MILWAUKEE, Wisconsin (WDJT) — Less than 24 hours after the death of her son, Shanita Hill reflected on the traits she admired most about her son. Hill said Amari Smith, 30, had a remarkably calm demeanor and a strong work ethic.

“I believe he took that from me,” Hill said. “He’s always been quiet, more laid-back personality.

Smith died Sunday night. Milwaukee police said in a statement officers tried to stop someone for speeding near N. 24th St. and W. Burleigh Street around 6:15 p.m. The driver took off, and the pursuit ended after covering about four blocks.

Surveillance video from a gas station at the intersection of N. 20th St. and N. Burleigh Street showed a car speeding east on Burleigh Street and blowing through a red light. The suspect’s car slammed into the driver’s side door of a car going north on 20th St.

Police said the victim, later identified as Smith, died at the scene. Hill said her son was due to graduate from Milwaukee Area Technical College in May. He was studying cosmetology after deciding he wanted to become a barber.

“He said he would be done by his birthday, and that’s May 15,” Hill said.

Hill said her son did not have an easy life, but he was resilient. She said he once set out to be a tattoo artist before eventually deciding he wanted to open a barber shop. The entire time, she said, Smith had a positive outlook and was good about managing money.

“He knew the streets, but he wasn’t a street person,” Hill said. “He always had a job. He always kept money. He was a miser; he didn’t like to spend money.”

Police said officers were able to catch the driver, who they identified as a 40-year-old. Police said they also recovered a gun from the suspect.

“Truthfully? He can rot in hell, I’m sorry,” Hill said. “He took my baby away from me. He took my world away from me.”

Smith’s father, Anthony, declined to do an on-camera interview Sunday. He said he was experiencing too much grief. While his son’s death was already devastating, he added it was the second time he’d have to bury a child.

Smith said he and Hill lost their daughter in 1994. She was only three months old.

Hill noted the little girl would have turned 30 in March had she still been alive. Instead, she was mourning the loss of her 30-year-old son.

Hill said one of her remaining dreams was to become a grandmother. Instead, she tearfully said that would never happen because both of her children were now gone.

“He was all I had,” she said. “All I had.”

mith’s death happened less than two weeks after the Wisconsin Legislature passed a bill that would create mandatory minimum prison sentences for people convicted of killing or seriously injuring someone while fleeing police.

The bill would mandate at least 1.5 years in prison for anyone convicted of causing great bodily harm while trying to evade police. The maximum possible sentence would increase from 12.5 years to 15 years.

Under the bill, those convicted of killing someone while fleeing police would be sentenced to a minimum of 2.5 years in prison. The maximum sentence would increase from 15 years to 25 years.

Governor Tony Evers has not yet acted on the bill, which was enrolled last Monday according to the Legislature’s website. Last year, Evers signed multiple bills aimed at stiffening penalties for reckless drivers.

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