TROY K. SMITH Jr., 23, of East Mount Airy, hoped to pursue a career in criminal justice, but became a victim of a deadly crime himself. And now, those who knew him are going to march for justice.

"I never thought anything like this [could happen] before. Never in my life. I've had death in my family, but it was never tragic like this," said his mother, Renee Whitmore, 41. Smith was her first-born child and only son.

His parents described him as a "family man." He didn't have children, but was known for the love he had for his relatives.

Smith and his uncle, Atif Smith, 29, of North Philly, had a closer bond than just that of an uncle and nephew. They were friends. The two were hanging out about 1 a.m. June 7, enjoying each other's company, when they were victims of a shooting on Hunter Street near 54th in Overbrook, police said.

Money was stolen from both men, police said, and Smith was fatally shot in the back. His uncle was shot in the chest, abdomen, pelvis and thigh, and was taken to the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, where he's paralyzed from the neck down.

"They took my son from me," Whitmore said. "I don't look at the world the same. I don't hear people - I don't feel like my heart is beating because it was snatched from me."

Police said they haven't caught the killer or found any motives in the case, but Whitmore and Smith's father, Troy Smith, 43, of North Philly, are looking for answers.

At 6 p.m. tomorrow, to bring awareness to the case, they will lead a march from 54th and Hunter streets, where their son was found, to 59th and Hunter, where Atif Smith was found.

"I pray that someone speaks up," Whitmore said. "That someone has seen something, and be able to bring justice so this person can be taken off the streets."

Both parents described their son as "hard working." The father, who described growing up in a crime-filled environment, tried to do everything to steer his son away from that, he said.

"He was a great kid. He wasn't into the street life," Smith said of his son. "I wanted to make sure he didn't go through the things I went through."

On Twitter: @PatriciaMadej