Harlem Teen Tysha Jones Killed in Brighton Beach Shooting
By Jeff Mays, Murray Weiss, Ben Fractenberg, Meredith Hoffman, Jill Colvin, Della Hasselle and Tom Liddy
MANHATTAN — A Harlem teen who loved to dance and wanted to be a singer was shot to death Thursday afternoon when gunfire erupted on a packed Brighton Beach boardwalk.
Tysha Jones, 16, a sophomore at Landmark High School in Chelsea, was one of five people shot at the Brooklyn beach, where many New Yorkers had gone to escape the sweltering heat. City schools were closed Thursday for teacher conferences.
"You done destroyed our family," Tysha's father, Kevin Wilson, 49, of Flatbush, said Friday outside the girl's home on Lexington Avenue, near 130th Street, as tears streamed down her mother's face.
"Me and her talked about everything. We didn't have secrets."
Tysha's mom, Cynthia Jones, told the Daily News: "She was just a lovely girl. She was just an innocent bystander."
The devastated mom had asked her daughter not to go to the beach, but ultimately relented.
"She was a good, innocent girl," said Lisa Baez, whose daughter Cheyenne, was killed in a drive-by shooting last October. Cheyenne and Tysha danced in the same group.
Five people were being questioned by police, all apparently members of the Crips gang, sources said. It's not clear if any of them is the shooter.
Police said that around 5:20 p.m., a group of men approached a bench where five people, including Jones, were sitting.
At least one of the men opened fire, striking all five people who were on the bench.
But a source said that the shooter was among the men sitting on the bench, who were all from Manhattan. He then left to get a gun after an argument and fired into the crowd.
Jones, who danced with the Harlem Angels, was shot once in the torso, and was pronunced dead at Coney Island Hospital, police said.
Four unidentified men, all between the ages of 21 and 26, were wounded. Three of them were taken to Lutheran Hospital in stable condition with gunshot wounds to their arms, legs and torsos. The fourth was listed in critical condition at Coney Island Hospital, police said.
It was not clear what relationship Jones had to the four men who were wounded.
It also wasn't clear if she was the intended target of the shooting, sources said.
"I heard three shots. Everyone started running," said Fara Sabirov, 34, who works at Volna restaurant on the boardwalk. "Some of our customers dropped to the ground. Everybody was shocked."
Nefretiri Polanco, 18, a schoolmate of Tysha's, was just feet away from her when the shots erupted.
"We saw a lot of people fighting," she said. "We saw a guy take out a silver gun and everybody started running."
Polanco didn't even realize who the victim was until later that day.
"We saw her on the floor but we didn't realize it was her until we saw it on Facebook when I got home."
Police Commissioner Ray Kelly toured the crime scene Friday afternoon.
"I want to take the temperature of the people who live here and use the beach on a regular basis," he said. "It's a terrible tragedy."
"We are aggressively investigating this case," Kelly said.
On Friday, there was an increased police presence in the area and cops set up a monitoring tower that oversees the boardwalk.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg chalked the shooting up to tempers flaring from the heat.
"You know it was a day off from school," Bloomberg said Friday during his weekly radio show.
"We beef up police presence because it does have a history of having higher crime. Some of the kids, you know, it's hot and irritiable. No excuse whatsoever."
A police source told the New York Post the incident "was a bad combination of guns, heat, beer and angry young men."
The mayor said he was hopeful that the shooter would be found.
Carri Scokzek, 54, was on the beach near the New York Aquarium around the time when the gunfire erupted.
All of a sudden, she saw a swarm of people racing down the beach.
"It was the weirdest thing I ever saw," she said. "It was so creepy."
"I think my Coney Island days might be over now for awhile," she added. "This has really put a damper on everything."
Around 100 people gathered outside Tysha's home Friday night for a vigil, chanting, "Tysha, we love you."