‘Always somebody you should be around.’ Classmates remember 13-year-old boy shot and killed along with 1-year-old girl and her 19-year-old dad

William Smith, an eighth-grader at the Montessori School of Englewood, was shot and killed Sunday night while traveling in a car in the northbound lanes of I-57 near 111th Street. A-mara Hall, 1, and her father Nasir Hall, 19, also died in the attack.

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Students and staff release balloons to mourn the loss of 13-year-old William L. Smith at the Montessori School of Englewood at 6936 S Hermitage Ave.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

Classes were over for the day at an Englewood elementary school Tuesday, but instead of heading home students gathered outside to remember a classmate gunned down along with two relatives over the weekend.

“Every time you were down, he would come make a joke to make you happy because he knew that’s how we lift each other up,” one student said as orange and black balloons were released for 13-year-old William Smith. “Now that he’s gone, we don’t get that same type of energy.”

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Smith, an eighth-grader at the Montessori School of Englewood, was shot and killed Sunday night while traveling in a car in the northbound lanes of I-57 near 111th Street. A-mara Hall, 1, and her father Nasir Hall, 19, also died in the attack.

As the balloons rose in the afternoon sky, students embraced each other and tearfully shared memories of the teen. Some students held up photos of Smith while a group of younger children carried a banner painted with black and orange butterflies.

“For Will,” the students, teachers and staff called out in unison as they let go of their balloons.

“Will was a happy person, he was always a happy person, you would never catch him down...or mad about anything,” said Darwin Sorrells, 14. “He was always somebody you should be around.”

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Students hold up a banner in remembrance of 13-year-old William L. Smith at the Montessori School of Englewood at 6936 S Hermitage Ave.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

There were no classes on Monday and most students learned of the shooting through social media, the school’s executive director Rita Nolan told the Sun-Times. When they showed up at school Tuesday, they told Nolan they wanted to hold a balloon release to celebrate Smith’s life.

“The kids are devastated,” Nolan said. “They loved William.”

Smith had transferred into the school in the fall but quickly became someone his peers looked up to, according to the school’s dean, Marlon Tobin. Changing schools at that age can often cause kids to act out, Tobin said, but Smith was nothing but positive.

“He was an exceptional, exceptional student, a hard worker and always encouraged you all to do the right thing,” Tobin said at Tuesday’s gathering.

Smith had “devoured” the book “The Outsiders” by S. E. Hinton in just two days and was working his way through Trevor Noah’s “Born A Crime,” the school said on Facebook.

“William was wise beyond his years and had formed a deep understanding of our world and his place in it,” the statement said. “Unfortunately, he never got to use his wisdom and intelligence to change the world.”

“He was a child, he’s just 13,” Nolan said. “A child with friends and a future. Our whole community is distraught.”

Smith was related to the two other victims of the shooting, according to school officials. A relative of 1-year-old A-mara Hall told the Sun-Times the infant’s mother and father, Nasir Hall, had just moved into an apartment together.

The infant’s mother was not injured in the attack, according to relatives. Hall’s family told the Sun-Times they still do not know the circumstances that lead to Sunday’s shooting or whether the attack was random or targeted.

Illinois State Police have provided few details.

A 14-year-old boy was also shot and taken to Comer’s Children’s Hospital in fair-to-serious condition, Chicago Fire Department officials said. Two other children who were in the car were hospitalized, but police didn’t say how they were injured.

“Everyone in that vehicle had some kind of injury, whether critical or minor,” a spokesperson with the state police said.

The vehicle had exited the expressway and stopped near the top of the 111th Street off ramp, police said.

Darwin Sorrells, 14, holds a photo of 13-year-old William L. Smith at the Montessori School of Englewood at 6936 S Hermitage Ave. William was one of three young people shot to death earlier this week as they traveled in a car on I-57.

Darwin Sorrells, 14, holds a photo of 13-year-old William L. Smith at the Montessori School of Englewood at 6936 S Hermitage Ave.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

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