Love triangle probed in Detroit church shooting

George Hunter, James David Dickson, and Candice Williams
The Detroit News

Detroit A man, who police say attacked a pastor with a brick at a church service before the pastor whipped out his Glock handgun and fatally fired back, ranted weeks before on Facebook that his pastor had gotten his wife pregnant.

Two Detroit police sources said detectives were investigating a possible love triangle between man who died, his wife and their pastor.

City of God ministries storefront church on Grand River in Detroit.

Deante Smith’s younger sister, Deja Ward, said Monday evening that her brother, who was killed Sunday, went to City of God Ministry on Grand River near Lahser to get closure with the pastor before pursuing counseling with his wife.

The couple had previously lived with the pastor, whom Smith considered a mentor and called dad, Ward said.

“He never brought beef to anybody,” Ward said of her brother. “He wanted closure so he could start counseling. I guess it turned a whole other way.”

On Sept. 16, Smith, 26, of Detroit wrote he planned to attend the church. “Can’t wait to see Sunday message at the City of God Ministry,” he wrote. “I’ll be there with the truth.”

Later that day, Smith wrote: “This (expletive) gonna hit the fan.”

In a Sept. 15 post, Smith wrote: “That wasn’t my baby that was (his wife) and pastor(’s) baby.” That preceded a Sept. 18 rant: “This (expletive) got my (expletive) pregnant. Tick tock (expletive) and everybody with you.”

Smith posted several times in the weeks leading up to his death about the pain he was feeling about the alleged affair. On Oct. 8, he wrote: “I’m hurting, yall.”

His posts appeared to concern friends, one of whom wrote on Oct. 13, “may I ask (what) is going on with you?”

Smith replied: “I’m crazy they call me S.O.N.I.C.”

Assistant Chief Steve Dolunt said police believe Smith was shot about 15 minutes after the start of the 1:30 p.m. Sunday service at the storefront church.

The pastor was not arrested and is cooperating with authorities, Officer Jennifer Moreno said Monday.

“He was never in custody,” Moreno said Monday. “He was just brought downtown (on Sunday) for questioning regarding the incident. He stayed a couple hours, cooperated fully and went home.”

After questioning the pastor, police will submit a warrant request to prosecutors, who will decide whether the shooting was justified.

“We’re not sure at this point whether the man had mental problems or what,” Dolunt said of Smith. “It’s still under investigation.”

“The pastor had had issues with the man before,” he added. “He had been threatening him to do bodily harm. He walked into the service and went after the pastor with a brick. The pastor pulled out his Glock and fired several shots. I think he hit him four or five times, and the man died.”

Ward said her brother worked for a manufacturing company in Troy, and after having an argument with the pastor outside of his job, he was placed on suspension. Smith’s company offered him anger management classes, which he planned to start after reconciling with his wife, Ward said.

The couple, who were married in 2012, were together for the wife’s birthday on Friday and for Sweetest Day on Saturday, Ward said.

Ward said her brother loved football, was funny and preached the word of God. After learning of the affair, he wasn’t the same, she said.

“He lost it from there,” she said.


Deante Smith

Smith had been a player for the semi-pro Michigan Lightning football team, which released a statement on Facebook on Monday.

“His infectious smile and the courage in which he approached life, on and off the field, are attributes that will stick with all of us,” the team said.

According to the team, Smith was captain and founding father of the organization, established in 2012.

“More important than all his on-the-field achievements, was his ability to reach someone who was going through a rough time. ‘I got you,’ was echoed by him on many occasions, and to Tae, they weren’t just words, he wasn’t going to let you fall,” the team’s statement read.

Brad Bentley, head coach of the Lightning, said he was still in shock after hearing of Smith’s death. He had known the young man since 2007, and they’d been together on the Lightning since its founding.

“I’m tore up over this,” Bentley said. “I’m shocked.”

Bentley said he’ll lobby team owner Rami Abousaleh to retire Smith’s No. 3 jersey and even do a halftime ceremony next season.

Smith used to wear number 22, but had switched to No. 3. Bentley still called him “double-deuce” regardless.

“Before every game, he pointed to the sky and yelled Jesus!” Bentley said. “He believed in God, his family, and this football team.”

“He was a leader, a great man.”

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Staff Writer Jim Lynch contributed.