Miami Herald | by David J. Neal, Charles Rabin and David Ovalle | September 21, 2020
The week after Thanksgiving, Miami Senior High School football coach Corey Smith’s brother was killed in a chaotic highway chase and shootout involving a hijacked UPS truck and several South Florida police agencies. Not long after, Smith’s teenage nephew, who had just lost his father, moved into the coach’s Northwest Miami-Dade home.
Now that teen is a suspect in the Monday morning shooting death of Smith at his uncle’s home in the West Little River neighborhood, according to multiple law enforcement sources. Smith died after being shot multiple times and his nephew, whose name has not yet been released, was the only other person known to be on the property, police said.
“The 15-year-old in the home was unharmed. Police are still talking to him,” Miami-Dade Detective Alvaro Zabaleta said Monday afternoon. “We’re still waiting on a warrant to get into the home.”
According to law enforcement sources, Smith’s nephew told police he was studying inside the home, 2140 NW 97th St., when he heard gunshots.
Local musician and football booster Luther Campbell sent condolences to Smith’s family and his extended football family on Twitter.
“This is heartbreaking. I just got off the phone with coach two days ago,” Campbell wrote.
University of Miami football coach Manny Diaz also reacted to the shooting at the start of his press conference Monday.
“It’s been a very difficult year in the South Florida high school coaching community,” Diaz said. “This is another difficult moment. It was hard news to hear that this morning. Our staff is deeply saddened by that.”
The shooting came less 24 hours after the father of New England Patriot running back James White, a former standout at St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Fort Lauderdale, was killed in a car crash in Broward County. Tyrone White, a 59-year-old captain with Miami-Dade police who coached or played in several organized sports leagues, was in the passenger seat of his car when it was T-boned Sunday afternoon. His wife, who was driving, remained in critical condition Monday.
Smith’s apparent murder shocked longtime friends hard, several of whom said all he wanted to do was set kids on the right path.
“Corey had a great heart and a great soul,” friend Terrence Jones told Miami Herald news partner WFOR Channel 4. “He would give his last breath to make sure individuals in the community lived up to what they could. He just did everything he could to help the community and those in the school system.”
Smith, 46, was married and a graduate of Miami High and Bethune-Cookman University. A Miami-Dade Public Schools employee for over two decades, he also taught physical education at Charles Drew Middle School in Brownsville. Miami High’s lone season under Smith ended with a loss to Columbus in the regional round of the playoffs last year. The Stings finished 9-4.
Smith’s neighbor Willie Jones told WPLG Channel 10 that Smith was like a “big brother” or a “father figure” to dozens of high school kids.
“He always got them on the right path. There’s a lot of kids that’s in the league, college, probably wouldn’t even have made it through high school without him because he was always there for them,” Jones said of his neighbor.
Smith also spent the past 13 years helping run football sports and conditioning programs for the Miami-Dade Boys & Girls Club at Gwen Cherry Park.
“His passion for helping our area youth and building great futures within our community was undeniable,” said Boys & Girls Club President Alex Rodriguez-Roig. ”He always made time to mentor the youth and would spend countless hours at the Club working with them.”
Zabaleta said police received the first call about an incident at the home at 9:36 a.m., when someone said a man inside the home was unresponsive. As officers were rushing to the scene another call came in, he said, saying that a person had been shot. Zabaleta couldn’t identify either of the callers.
Miami-Dade Fire Rescue determined that Smith was dead and that he had suffered “multiple gunshot wounds.” Zabaleta said first responders then left the home and police were waiting for a judge to sign a warrant Monday afternoon so they could enter and further assess the situation. The detective said the teen was speaking with police.
In December, Smith’s brother, Lamar Alexander and another man, Ronnie Hill, robbed a Coral Gables jewelry store, hijacked a UPS truck and led police on a wild chase before being killed in an ensuing gun battle with police at a Pembroke Pines intersection — a shootout televised live on local news channels. Two others were also killed — Frank Ordóñez, the UPS driver and a driver in a nearby car. Alexander, previously convicted of armed robbery, had been released from prison in 2017.
A Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigation into whose bullets were responsible for the deaths and the police actions in general still had not been completed almost a year later. The estate of Ordóñez filed a negligence suit against six law enforcement agencies last week in Broward County Circuit Court.
Contacted that day by the Miami Herald, Smith, who said he hadn’t been up to date on his brother’s whereabouts, said he was headed home when his mom called “hysterical” about the incident. He arrived home in time to watch it play out, he said.
“I love my brother,” Smith said at the time. “But he’s been making bad decisions his whole life.”
Miami Herald Sports Writer Susan Miller Degnan contributed to this report.