By Jeff Mays, Meredith Hoffman and Tom Liddy
HARLEM — The distraught mother of Tysha Jones, the 16-year-old Harlem high school student slain in a Brighton Beach shootout, had tried to convince her daughter not to go to the beach Thursday, a family friend said.
"At first, Tysha's mother said she couldn't go to the beach," recalled Barbara Tice, a friend of Tysha's devastated mom, Cynthia Jones.
"And then Tysha said, 'What can happen at the beach?' And the mother said, 'You're right.'"
Jones, who dreamed of going to college and loved to sing and dance, was killed when a gunman opened fire on the crowded boardwalk Thursday afternoon — a day when schools were out and people went to the beach in droves to beat the heat. Four other people were injured.
"You done destroyed my family," said Tysha's dad, Kevin Wilson, 49, of Flatbush, 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," he said. "We didn't have secrets."
In the wake of the deadly shooting, Cynthia Jones has been inconsolable at the loss of her youngest child.
"That's what's beating her down — that she said no at first," Tice said, near Jones' home. "She feels if she stuck to her 'no,' her child would still be there."
Friends and family have spent the past 24 hours trying to convince Tysha's mom that the death wasn't her fault.
"She's a good mother," said Tice.
Tysha's father said his daughter dreamed of becoming a singer.
"She loved to sing. She was in a dance group," he told DNAinfo. "She was in the wrong place at the wrong time."
He dismissed speculation that his daughter's death was gang-related.
"All the rumors about her being in a gang are not true. She didn't need a gang. We were her gang, her mother, father, sister and brothers."
Tysha's cousin, Leticia Allen, said that she was going to go on the trip, too, but decided against it because she wanted to get a new bathing suit.
"My aunt didn't want her to go," she remembered. "She said it was in Brooklyn and she didn't want her going there by herself. Tysha told her there's nothing to do here. We want to have fun."
Allen described her cousin as an outgoing person who loved dance.
"Everybody is destroyed," Allen said. "Her brother is losing his mind. It's unbelievable."
The death of Jones, a sophomore at Landmark HS in Chelsea, sent waves of grief through the community.
Family and friends of the slain teen gathered in Harlem River Park Friday, across from where Jones lived, to console each other.
"She was an innocent good girl," said Lisa Baez, whose 17-year-old daughter, Cheyenne, was the innocent victim of a shooting in Harlem last October.
Cheyenne and Tysha were friends and performed together in the Harlem's Angels dance group starting in 2003.
"She and my daughter just really loved to dance," Baez said of Tysha, who lists singers Ciara and Beyonce, and rapper Drake as interests on her Facebook page.
"All she wanted to do was bring her mommy home a diploma," she said. "Cheyenne was my only child so I know what [Tysha's mom] is going through right now."
To Baez, the death of the two young girls was unacceptable.
"It's a shame what this gun violence is doing to the youth," she said. "The youth are using guns to solve their problems. Enough is enough."
Students at Landmark HS held a memorial service Friday for their slain classmate.
Tysha was set to take part in a talent show on Tuesday in which she was going to sing "Bubbly," by Colbie Caillat. She can be seen taking part in a talent show last year in a YouTube video.
The teen's closest friends walked around the school holding candles, followed by a moment of silence and a rendition of "Bubbly."
Friends at the tight-knit school said that Tysha loved to sing so much so much that she would get kicked out of class.
"She was always singing in class whenever she had a chance and she was always getting kicked out of class for singing," said Rosemary Browne, 16, a junior.
"She was a loud, friendly person."
Pam Lewis, the Vice-President of youth programs for the All Stars Project, which hosts talent shows that Tysha and Cheyenee performed in, said everyone is in shock.
"Tysha and [Cheyenne] were friends," she said of the tragic girls. "These kids loved to perform."
Near Tysha's home, Rev. Vernon Williams led a gathering in prayer.
"Just like the civil rights movement we need to work on this until it stops," said Williams, referring to gun violence. "We recognize that only love will prevail to stop this evil of us killing one another."
Family friend Audrey Johnson called jones a "good kid."
"I watched her grow up," Johnson said. "I have a hole inside of me. For something like this to happen to her, she didn't deserve it. For her to not come home to her mother hurts."
Condolences poured into a Facebook tribute page set up in Tysha's memory.
"R.I.P Bbygirl, it feels good too knoe that you are in a better place," wrote Jullian Singleton. "My prayers go out too her family. Your a Beautiful Angel in Heaven now. May you Rest in Paradise."
Jones, the youngest of four siblings, was set to move to North Carolina, where her brother Anthony, 20, lives, the day after her birthday on July 27, said Tice.
She said that Jones' block residents make up T-shirts every year with the names of residents who died.
"It used to be only older people, like our parents, on the T-shirt," Tice said. "Now, it's nothing but kids."