The gun violence gripping Columbia has hit close to home for a former University of Missouri basketball star with deep Columbia roots.
Willie Smith said Thursday that James Hickem, a 23-year-old killed by gunfire Wednesday night, is his grandson. Smith first spoke with ABC 17 News on Wednesday afternoon about the violence that has now claimed six lives this month
Twenty-four hours after that first interview and following his grandson’s death, Smith said the community needs an arrest.
“I think Columbia police, I take my hat off to the department, but we need an arrest,” Smith said. “We need one, and we need one yesterday — we need it.”
Watch the extended interview with Smith below:
Police said Hickem was found shot to death a little after 8 p.m. near McBaine Avenue and Duncan Street and later pronounced dead at a hospital.
“My grandson’s murder will not be in vain, I’m not going to allow it to be,” Smith said.
Hickem, who was also known as “Big Baby,” grew up in Columbia and attended Hickman and Douglas high schools.
“James was a beautiful soul and this is just the beginning,” Smith said.
September marks the deadliest single month for shootings in Columbia since 2000.
“Everyone has to go to bed tonight and wonder will my child be next or somebody else I know be next,” Smith said.
This latest killing came just hours after the mayor and police chief held a press conference to announce a public health crisis in regard to the gun violence.
Smith has a message for his grandson’s killer: “Are you trying to break a record? Leaving bodies all through the city. Senseless, this is senseless.”
Smith is in town to visit his family and now he has to make plans for his grandson’s funeral.
“We’re going to be okay as a family but this is not easy — it’s the hardest thing I’ve had to do,” Smith said.
Watch ABC 17 News at 6 p.m. to see Smith’s interview.