‘A joy to be around’: Loved ones mourn TCU student killed in West 7th district shooting

TCU student Wes Smith, who was shot and killed in Fort Worth on Friday, is being remembered as an outgoing young man who was a joy to be around.

“His faith was very important to him,” his father, Philip Smith, who lives in Tennessee, said in a phone interview with the Star-Telegram.

Philip said Wes was a part of Young Life, a nonprofit organization and Christian ministry for children and teens, where he also led Bible studies during summer camps.

“He was an all-American guy,” Philip said. Wes, who was the youngest of three brothers, was very social, loved the company of others, and also enjoyed the outdoors, his father said.

“He was very friendly and gregarious and outgoing,” Philip said.

Wes’ father says that TCU has been supportive of the family as they mourn their loss.

“We’ve been very appreciative of the outreach from TCU in particular,” he said. “Everyone there has gone above and beyond, just in ways you would not expect. I can’t say enough kind things about the job they have done to support our family and to support Wes, to support his friends.”

The Smith family said in a statement released by TCU that Wes was “an amazing and loving son, brother, cousin and friend.”

“We are heartbroken by his passing and ask for the space to grieve during this terribly difficult time,” the family said

[MORE: Fort Worth mayor had personal ties to TCU student Wes Smith]

Wes Smith, 21, was fatally shot early Friday morning while standing on Bledsoe Street in the West 7th District, a popular entertainment destination in Fort Worth known for its bars, restaurants, shopping and apartment complexes.

Officers who were patrolling the area heard several gunshots and responded to the 3000 block of Bledsoe Street shortly after 1 a.m. Friday, Fort Worth police said in a news release. They found Smith lying on the ground with multiple gunshot wounds in his upper body.

Smith was taken to a local hospital, where he died, according to police. Officers apprehended a suspect, 21-year-old Matthew Purdy, near the shooting scene. Purdy faces a charge of murder.

According to an arrest warrant affidavit, Purdy told homicide detectives that he didn’t know Smith and couldn’t provide a clear reason why he shot the college student. Surveillance video shows Purdy approach Smith in the street and shoot him three times, police wrote in the affidavit. Purdy was on probation after receiving deferred adjudication last year when he pleaded guilty to a robbery charge, according to court records.

Jason Murphy, the lead pastor at Grace Chapel in Collierville, Tennessee, where some of Smith’s family attend church, said, “He loved his family, loved his friends. He just loved.”

Murphy said Smith came from a good family and described him as polite and “super” respectful of people. The pastor said that anyone who knew Smith would say the same thing.

A message to students and staff from the university’s vice chancellor for student affairs said that Smith was a junior finance major and Kappa Sigma fraternity member.

He was also a walk-on member of the TCU Horned Frogs football team as a freshman in 2021-22, according to his LinkedIn page and other online records. For high school, he attended St. George’s Independent School near Memphis, where he was student body president and captain of the football and basketball teams, his LinkedIn profile says. He was named the Tennessee DII-AA West Defensive Player of the year for football. He also played lacrosse in high school.

“Wes was the definition of a true competitor and a fantastic leader. Such a senseless tragedy,” Andrew Atkins, head football coach at St. George’s, wrote in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter.

Fort Worth Mayor Mattie Parker said Smith coached her son’s middle school football team.

“Early this morning, Wes Smith was shot and killed in a senseless act of gun violence,” Parker said in a written statement. “Wes was a TCU student and a remarkable young man who impacted countless lives including my own son as a football coach for his middle school team. Our family is praying and grieving for the entire TCU community and especially for Wes’ family and friends.”

Smith had plans to work as an analyst for Houlihan Lokey, an investment bank and financial services company in Dallas, as part of a summer 2024 internship, according to his LinkedIn. He was “very proud” to be part of the Transaction and Investment Professionals Board at TCU, Philip Smith said.

He was a TCU Neeley Scholar and was awarded a Founders Scholarship.

Smith served as philanthropy chairman for his fraternity, for which he also led a Bible study group. Kappa Sigma members who were at the fraternity house Friday afternoon declined to be interviewed and referred questions to the fraternity’s officers.

In a statement to the Star-Telegram, a TCU spokesperson said, “We are devastated by the tragic death of one of our students, junior Wes Smith from Germantown, Tennessee. He was a beloved member of our community, and we grieve with his family and friends.”

In a message to students and staff Friday, TCU Vice Chancellor Kathy Cavins-Tull wrote, “The grief in our community is great today. There are resources available today for immediate mental health and spiritual counseling and I urge you to use them.”

TCU junior Wes Smith was killed in a shooting in the West 7th entertainment district in Fort Worth on Friday, Sept. 1, 2023.
TCU junior Wes Smith was killed in a shooting in the West 7th entertainment district in Fort Worth on Friday, Sept. 1, 2023.

“We are working directly with Wes’ closest friends and classmates,” Cavins-Tull wrote. “As soon as we have more information, I will send a more formal announcement with ways to gather in support of each other and in honor of Wes.”

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