Nicole Gayfield said her uncle spent all day Tuesday cooking soul food, eventually dropping off plates of the food at her house.

Charles Smith Jr. | Photo provided to the Chicago Sun-Times

“He cooked for his whole building. He fed everybody,” Gayfield, 36, said early Wednesday near yellow crime scene tape. Her uncle’s body could be seen half a block away, slumped against a fence outside the Cosmopolitan Church of Prayer in the Woodlawn neighborhood.

 

Officers responding to reports of a man down about 3:30 a.m. found 45-year-old Charles Irving Smith Jr. lying on the sidewalk with gunshot wounds to the head and right side in the 6400 block of South Maryland, according to Chicago Police and the Cook County medical examiner’s office. He was dead at the scene.

Gayfield identified the man as her uncle, her mother’s only brother. He was a barber who liked to cook and was gunned down steps from his apartment building. She said he was 47.

“When is it gonna stop? When is it gonna stop?” she wailed. “All these innocent babies — my uncle didn’t do nothing.”

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Flanked by her wife and sister, Gayfield stood at the crime scene for hours Wednesday morning, waiting for the body removal service. She had been sleeping in her home about a block away when one of Smith’s neighbors called to wake her up. The neighbor told her that he had left the building about 2 a.m. to go to a laundromat nearby, but never came back.

“He was a great person, very caring, giving,” she said. “He had good wisdom and always smiled, even through the bad things in life.”

Gayfield, who has a 1-year-old son, said Smith taught her “everything,” adding that she even went to barber school because of him.

She said she had last spoken with him about 9 p.m. Tuesday, when Smith texted her about wanting to show her his new haircut. Gayfield told him she was going to sleep and that she’d see him tomorrow.

“This is just really messed up,” Gayfield said. “They really took a good man.”