Victim of Shooting at Chicago State Wanted to Join Navy, Friends Say
ROSELAND — The 17-year-old Morgan Park High School senior killed after a melee between two top-ranked basketball teams dreamed of a better life and wanted to join the Navy.
Tyrone Lawson, who friends said was known as "Ty Meezy," was fatally shot outside Chicago State University in the 9500 block of South King Drive, according to the Cook County Medical Examiner's Office.
Authorities said two people were in custody after the shooting, and a weapon was recovered from the scene, which was the site of a marquee matchup between top-ranked Simeon Career Academy and Morgan Park High School. The game featured Jabari Parker, one of the nation's top-ranked basketball recruits, who will attend Duke University in the fall.
Lawson was an honor student at Morgan Park High School, said his stepfather, Gregory Young. His cousin, William Taylor, 26, who enlisted in the Navy in 2008, said and Lawson would often talk about the future.
"He wanted to get away from the negativity and stereotypes of this place," Taylor said. "Being a black man, he didn't want to be slain and become a statistic."
His grandmother, Barbara Van Hughs, said Lawson was a “well-behaved” only child with a “great smile.” She said she taught him to read the Bible every day.
“He was such a giant,” she said of the boy, who stood more than 6 feet tall. “He would say, ‘Grandma, you’re growing shorter.”
Lawson was excited to see his Morgan Park Mustangs take on Simeon, and asked to borrow $10 for admission from his mother, Pamela Wright. Later, she waited for him to call her for a ride home, Van Hughs said.
“She was trying to protect him from what happened,” she said. “This was his senior year. He would never be able to go to another big game after it.”
She complained of lax security, though Chicago Public Schools said in a statement proper security protocol was followed.
“There wasn’t enough security at the game,” Van Hughs said. “I am 100 percent for bringing in the National Guard (to Chicago). I don’t want anyone else feeling like I’m feeling. This isn’t just happening to our family.”
Classmate Harlie Bivens, 18, took a journalism class with Lawson. In an interview for the class, Lawson told her he wanted to join the Navy after high school and wanted to become a parole officer.
He said he had dreams of being a provider for his family.
His dream life, he said, was “to get money and make sure my family is good. To get married, settle down and be [a] good man, to have no worries.”
Lawson, of the 11600 block of South Peoria Street, according to the Cook County Medical Examiner's Office, was shot after the game in the university parking lot about 9:15 p.m., Chicago State police chief Ronnie Watson said.
Chicago State hosted the game because it is a neutral location, Chicago Public Schools officials said. CPS often uses such sites to accommodate fans and media. CPS stated that all proper security measure were in place.
"Screening was done to prevent weapons from entering the game,” a CPS statement said. “Everyone was searched, even the media and the teams. We worked closely with CSU security and CPD to ensure that no incidents occurred during the game and that everyone exited the game peacefully."
No charges have been announced, Watson said.
Watson would not say whether the suspects were juveniles or adults. He said the incident still is being investigated, but newspaper accounts and Lawson’s friends said an argument after the game might have led to the shooting.
Police were called to Chicago State after the two teams scuffled in the postgame handshake line. Lawson tweeted about the melee: “n----- calling police dat s--- crazy,” he wrote.
Classmate Keonna Campbell, 18, described Lawson as a peacemaker.
“He never wanted to get in a fight with anybody. He was just walking to his car and was in the wrong place,” she said.
Watson would not say whether university police were present when the shooting happened or how many officers, if any, were on duty during or after the game.
"It's part of the investigation," Watson said. "I will not speak to that."
University police officials are leading the investigation, though the Chicago Police Department is assisting, Watson said.
"Their assistance during this investigation, hopefully, will allow us to come to a successful conclusion," Watson said.
Watson did not say whether Chicago State will host future CPS games.
Morgan Park senior Stephon Bobo said he met Lawson right before the two started high school, and they became good friends.
Bobo said the two would play pickup games of basketball before school, after school and during school.
Lawson played center in the pickup games and had good hands, Bobo said.
“He knew how to pass the ball like a point guard,” Bobo said Thursday morning.
But despite his size, Lawson wasn't a bully, Bobo said.
“He wasn’t someone to start stuff,” he said. “He got along with everybody.”
Bobo said the two would talk almost daily about the violence in Lawson's West Pullman neighborhood, and their hopes for a different future once they graduated.
Lawson wanted to go beyond where he was raised, Bobo said, and “find a job, find something better.”
“All the time, every day, we’d have a conversation about the stuff that’s been going on,” Bobo said. “He wanted to become more, and get away from everything that’s negative.”
Bobo said he last talked to Lawson during Wednesday night’s game. Lawson texted him the score.
“Right after school [on Wednesday] he was talking about the game and whether I was going to go,” Bobo said.
Bobo said the two schools have a heated sports rivalry but that he doesn’t think the rivalry played a part in the shooting.
“I think it was too many people in the same spot,” he said. “I don’t think it had anything to do with the schools.”
Bobo said one of his family members told him about the shooting this morning. He wanted to believe, somehow, that it was another Tyrone Lawson who attended Morgan Park.
The student body already has dealt with numerous losses, including the murder of 16-year-old Taylor Fitting a few months ago and the recent loss of a beloved security guard.
Bobo said the guard suffered a fatal heart attack.
Junior Deion Fields, 17, said Lawson loved playing spades and would always make people laugh.
“He was funny,” said Tyana Porter, 15, a sophomore. “He was always trying to kick it with somebody. He always says ‘what up’ in the hall and compliments you on your clothes.”
The death of his friend has been difficult, Bobo said.
“I done cried a few times today,” he said. “It was just hard. A lot of people couldn’t focus on their work. You can’t believe it happens to someone like that.”