A Wisconsin mother teaching her teenage son to drive was shot and killed in what police say was a road-rage incident sparked by a minor car crash.
With her son driving, Tracey Smith was in the passenger seat last Friday afternoon as the two made their way to a Milwaukee clothing store, according to a criminal complaint. Smith’s family said she was teaching her son to drive at the time, WISN reported.
When the teen prepared to turn left from the left lane, a gold van cut in front of their car from the wrong lane, causing the teen to collide with the driver’s side of the van, according to the complaint.
Smith, 46, got out of the car to check the damage and began yelling at the man driving the van, her son later told police. The van’s driver said, “[Expletive], I’ll kill you,” pointed a gun at her and fired, the complaint says.
“He shot me,” she said, before she stumbled and fell to the ground, the complaint says.
The suspect then made a U-turn in his van and fled the scene, police said. Nearby people helped Smith into her car, and her son drove her to the hospital, where she was declared dead.
Milwaukee police said investigators recovered video that showed the van’s license plate, and records linked that license plate to a man named Matthew Lee Wilks. The teenage son identified a picture of Wilks as being the man who killed his mother, the complaint says.
Wilks, 35, was taken into custody on Saturday and on Wednesday was charged with first-degree intentional homicide and possession of a firearm by a felon, Milwaukee police said.
Smith worked as a sergeant at the Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility, a medium-security prison, according to Wisconsin Department of Corrections Secretary-designee Kevin A. Carr.
“Sgt. Smith courageously served Wisconsin communities for 23 years as a member of the DOC, and her contributions to the Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility (MSDF) will be felt long after her passing,” Carr said in a statement. “Today, I want to express my sincere condolences and stand in solidarity with Sgt. Smith’s family, friends and co-workers.”
Milwaukee Police Chief Alfonso Morales sends his condolences to the Smith family during this difficult time. pic.twitter.com/MF4ZvbsTLZ
— Milwaukee Police (@MilwaukeePolice) September 4, 2019
Her father, Ollie Luckett, remembered his daughter as a beautiful person.
“She knew how to treat people. She knew how to talk to people. She was wonderful,” Luckett told WISN. “That was my oldest daughter. And I wish you knew how I feel.”
Wilks had previously been convicted in 2008 of felony possession of a firearm by a felon and felony possession of cocaine, the complaint states.
After arresting him, police searched his home and found a handgun and drugs, a probable cause affidavit states. He was charged with possession of a firearm by a felon and two drug charges related to that search, according to a criminal complaint.
Wilks appeared in court on the homicide charge Wednesday, and cash bond was set at $100,000, according to online court records. He was also assigned a public defender.
Tom Reed, regional attorney manager with the Wisconsin Public Defender’s Office, said he expects Wilks to plead not guilty at next week’s preliminary hearing, as is typical for defendants at this point in a criminal case.
“The case itself is interesting and we’ll have to see what happens with it,” Reed said.