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Family of Murdered Harlem Basketball Star Calls for End to Violence

By Jeff Mays | September 16, 2011 6:37am
Participants called for an end to the violence that led to the death of Tayshana Murphy.
Participants called for an end to the violence that led to the death of Tayshana Murphy.
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Marina Lopes

HARLEM —A passionate plea to end a feud between  Harlem's Grant Houses and Manhattanville Houses was made by friends and relatives of the slain basketball star police believe may have been a victim of the fighting.

Standing in front of the Grant Houses building where Tayshana Murphy, 18, lived, her aunt Roberta Knight called for an end to the violence Wednesday night, and pleaded for anyone who knows the whereabouts of the two men suspected in Murphy's death to turn them in.

"Please, anyone, if you know where they are, those cowards, please give them up," she told the crowd.

"We are tired of burying our children. We are tired. You guys have to stop this. It's too much. We can't take this. Why are the parents burying their children? Why is it not the other way around?"

Murphy was killed early Sunday after being chased into her building on Broadway near 125th Street. The growing memorial for Murphy now includes a song written by friends.

Robert Cartagena, 20, and Tyshawn Brockington, 21, allegedly shot Murphy three times in the chest, hip and arm as she ran from them inside the Grant Houses, said Police Commissioner Ray Kelly.

Murphy's mother says she found her daughter bleeding on the fourth floor. The Medical Examiner said a gunshot wound to her chest was the cause of death. Both Cartagena and Brockington remain at large.

A senior at Murry Bergtraum High School for Business Careers in lower Manhattan, Murphy was affectionately known as "Chicken," because she was bowlegged. Several college basketball teams had already begun recruiting the teen, one of the top-ranked high school point guards in the country, said her father Taylon Murphy, 42.

"They took our baby. She was going to be in the WNBA. She told us all she was taking us all out the 'hood because she didn't want us here no more," said Knight.

Jackie Rowe-Adams of Harlem Mothers S.A.V.E. called for an end to the back and forth violence between the neighboring public housing projects.

Police believe Cartagena was attacked a day before the shooting. Police also believe Murphy's brother, known as "Bam Bam," may have been involved in the feud. However, Murphy's family and friends deny that either was involved in any sort of feud.

"The war must stop. The war between Manhattanville and Grant must stop," said Rowe-Adams.

"It's time for us to start policing us," said Rev. Vernon Williams, president of the Harlem Clergy Community Leaders Coalition.

A third suspect, Terique Collins, 24, was arrested at his apartment in the Manhattanville Houses on Monday night, Kelly said. He was seen by eyewitnesses passing a gun to the shooters before the incident, police sources said.

Surveillance video from the Grant Houses that night showed Cartagena and Brockington with guns in their waistbands, Kelly said Monday. Eyewitnesses said Collins' gun was the murder weapon, but sources said he denied involvement.

Collins was released from prison last February after serving only a year and a half of a possible 3 1/2 year term for selling crack to undercover officers, police sources said.

Norman Seabrook, president of the New York City Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association, called for an automatic seven-year jail term for anyone caught with an illegall firearm.

"They go to Rikers Island, they do six months, eight months, a year and come out and pick up another gun," said Seabrook.

"It's time for us to change the laws to make these young men accountable," he added.

Robin Holmes, project director for Operation SNUG, a program that uses ex-gang members to stop violence before it erupts, called for more funding for groups like hers that work in close contact with the kids most likely to be shot or to be responsible for the shooting.

"It is not normal to hear shots and say that's okay," she said.

Harlem Councilman Robert Jackson said he is going to try to get more funding. Several elected officials held an emergency meeting with Rev. Al Sharpton this week to discuss ways to get more funding.

"The budget is tight but we have a crisis. The government has to respond," said Jackson.

There also need to be programs that teach young people to solve their differences peacefully, without resorting to violence, he said.

Rev. Al Taylor from Man Up in Harlem said he's going to be meeting with young people from Manhattanville and Grant Houses.

Teka Taylor, 22, was with Murphy outside of Grant Houses just before Murphy ran into the building.

"Five minutes after that I saw her body on the floor," Taylor said. "We got more kids dying from gunshots than natural causes."

Taylor called for more activities so that young people can make other choices than participating in violence.

Rowe-Adams said she was concerned no one has turned Cartagena and Brockington in because they want to seek revenge. She called on young people to not retaliate for Murphy's death.

"Don't let Tayshanna's death go in vain. She wouldn't want any more killings because she knows it only hurts the families," said Rowe-Adams.

As they prepare to bury Murphy Saturday, Knight said it is a pain that she and her family are still struggling with.

"We're not suppossed to be here doing this. She's supposed to be doing this for us. She's suppossed to be at our funeral telling stories about us, not the other way around," said Knight.

Murphy’s wake will be held Friday from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Thomas M. Quinn & Sons Funeral Home, 35-20 Broadway, in Astoria. Her funeral will be held at the funeral home at 10 a.m. Saturday.