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Family of Murdered Harlem Basketball Star Calls Shooting 'Senseless'

By Jeff Mays | September 12, 2011 4:14pm
Taylon Murphy, 42, father of  Murry Bergtraum basketball star Tayshana Murphy, called her death
Taylon Murphy, 42, father of Murry Bergtraum basketball star Tayshana Murphy, called her death "senseless." "I'm hurting so bad," he said. "I miss my baby. It's killing me."
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DNAinfo/Jeff Mays

HARLEM — The family of murdered teen basketball star Tayshana Murphy traveled to the morgue Monday to identify her body, as friends and neighbors massed in the streets around her Harlem home to decry the "senseless" death.

"I'm hurting so bad," said Murphy's father, Taylon Murphy, 42, standing outside of the Grant Houses, where his 18-year-old daughter was shot and killed early Sunday. "I miss my baby. It's killing me."

Police said Murphy was shot three times — in the left chest, the left hip and the right arm. The medical examiner's office said Monday the gunshot to chest ultimately killed Murphy. 

Police had initially described Murphy's injuries as a single gunshot wound to the head.

Law enforcement officials were reportedly questioning two men Monday in connection to the shooting, according to the New York Post.

Police sources said Murphy was outside of the Grant Houses when she was chased inside along with two other people.

She was shot while trying to escape from a gunman on the fourth floor of her apartment building, witnesses told the Daily News. Witnesses said she was wearing a hooded sweatshirt and may have been mistaken for someone else by rivals from another housing complex, according to reports.

Murphy, affectionately known as "Chicken," had just started her senior year at the Murry Bergtraum High School for Business Careers in lower Manhattan.

Taylon Murphy said his daughter had received calls from recruiters at several colleges, including Boston University, Northeastern University and Rutgers University. Her goal was to play in the Women's National Basketball Association after college, her father added.

"She would have been the type of person to give back," he said of his daughter. "It was totally senseless. They took something away from us, that was so senseless."

Murphy was outside of her housing complex just before the 4 a.m. shooting Sunday, family members explained.

Murphy's cousin, Pierre Walton, 21, said he was in Murphy's apartment with the victim's mother, Tephanie Holston, when Murphy was shot. They ran down to the fourth floor together where they found her "lying in a pool of blood," Walton said. "I've never seen anything like that before."

Walton said he believes the shooting might have stemmed from a series of beefs between people in the Grant Houses and the nearby Manhattanville Houses.

"They jump people from there, people from here get jumped. It's childish stuff," Walton said. "It was basically her being in the wrong place at the wrong time."

Another of Murphy's friends, Mario Barber, 30, said the killing shocked the entire neighborhood.

"What's going on in our community is sad," he said. "We don't have no protection here. We need more protection in our community."

Friends and family said Murphy was all about basketball.

"Books and basketball. That's all she did. Books and basketball," said Karmilla Parker, 20, a one-time teammate of Murphy's. "This really hurts me because she could have been in the WNBA.

Chez Williams coached Murphy on the basketball Amateur Athletic Union team named the New York Elite.

"She wasn't involved in any of this nonsense. She didn't deserve this. Why would you do this to her? She was supposed to be playing in a game with me yesterday," Williams said, urging the gunman to "turn yourself in."

It was a message echoed by area anti-violence activists such as Rev. Vernon Williams, president of the Harlem Clergy Community Leaders Coalition.

"To the shooter, this community knows who you are. Turn yourself in before it gets bad," Rev. Williams said.

He called the continuing problem of young people shooting one another "youth genocide," and called for more resources to combat the problem.

Iesha Sekou, founder of Street Corner Resources, said she was astounded by the level of cruelty exhibited in Murphy's death. She said some people who overheard the incident listened as Murphy tried to urge the gunman not to shoot her.

"This girl was begging for her life. People heard her begging for her life, and the shooter still shot her..." Sekou said. "She was saying, 'I didn't have anything to do with it.' The shooter just said, 'I don't care.'"

A massive memorial with dozens of candles steadily grew outside of Murphy's building Monday. Young people with their eyes filled with tears stood outside, hugging one another and shaking their heads.

 "He just didn't kill her," Murphy's coach, Williams, said. "He killed a lot of people's souls, a lot of people's spirits."

Murray Weiss contributed reporting.