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December 5th, the day I hope to forget….
“Deb you need to get over here. Andrew’s been shot and it’s not good….”
In the summer of 1987, Karin was pregnant, very pregnant. She went through hell and endured many naysayers to protect the gift God gave her. Even then she knew that she was chosen to bring a very special miracle into this world. I cannot remember Karin hesitating for a second to not accept this challenge. Karin being young, many people said she was throwing her life away. Little did we know she was given a gift that she graciously shared with all of us. That gift was Andrew Damone Tyler, an angel among us.
I remember Andrew being stubborn and not wanting to come out. We tried many things with Karin to get this baby out. We had her jump rope, eat weird things, dance, and do strange exercises, anything…and then finally June 8, 1987, he decided to enter this world. This beautiful baby boy; a reminder of God’s covenant with His people, with our family, with Karin. Truly a blessing without a disguise, it was apparent he was indeed more than a blessing. He has always been a blessing even as he went through his ups and downs becoming a man.
As I arrived at the scene, I prayed the call was just Steve being overly dramatic and that Andrew would pop out, grinning and smiling as only he could and tell us some crazy story. He would eventually come down the street and say something that would cause us all to get mad and then laugh. That was Andrew. I was prepared to give him the “stern auntie lecture” and say the things my mom taught me about the dangerous world we live in and all the things aunties are supposed to say to back up whatever Karin would say. I was prepared to hold his hand and help him out of the situation as he so many times held my hand or hugged me and helped me out of my situations. He was a protector. That was indeed Andrew.
However I was miffed at the police tape and barely parked my car as I realized this might actually be a little more than I braced for. Police were everywhere and people looked lost and scared. Upon seeing me, they looked even more different than I expected and they were not smiling or anything to give me a sign of hope that things were going to be okay. “Oh Lord Andrew what happened here?” “Did you go overboard with a prank?” “Did the police mistake you for someone?” “Did someone pull the fire alarm?”
What in the hell….
“He didn’t make it…”
“He was killed…”
“Someone shot him….”
“We don’t know what happened but Andrew is gone”
I started to shake uncontrollably. All I could hear was this noise but what I heard could not be true. If one person in the world should have been protected and shielded it was this baby and whatever these people are saying, why are they lying and saying such horrible mess? Let’s wait for the facts and let Andrew tell it. He can straighten this out.
However he would not tell it. He would not be coming out of his home on his own. He would not be telling me anything. Only the silhouette of my sister, shattered and distraught, barely walking was all I could make out in the cold, dark night. Still I looked behind her desperately looking for my nephew. He was not there.
Okay God this is not funny anymore! Was he hurt, was he going to the hospital? Let’s prepare for these things. I was prepared for those things. What I was not prepared for was the words from my sister confirming that Andrew was gone. He was gone…
He was gone…
Andrew is gone…
She was shown a picture of his lifeless body confirming he had expired from this world. Even with her saying it, I could not accept it. I kept looking for a police officer or paramedic coming to tell us, he was going to be okay. They never did.
One can never prepare for this, especially when it is your family member…
Especially when he is only 24 years old…
Especially when he was just getting his life back under God’s control…
Especially when he was just going back to work…
Especially when he was finishing school…
Especially when you know damn well you should be dead long before him…
Especially when this person was way too full of life. We need him here, I need him here…
Especially since it was Andrew, so vibrant, so resilient, so bright…
Andrew was one of those babies born specially created in God’s purest image. He was not only beautiful on the outside, but he was so much more beautiful on the inside. He was joy, he was a smile, he was life, he was brilliant, he was passionate, he was amazingly gifted and smart, and yes he was irritating at times. But no matter how irritating, you never left upset. You left laughing or at least cracking a smile, or if you were smart, waited until he left to laugh at whatever he did or said. He was uniquely created carrying the gift of unconditional love and joy like no other person I know. This gift was witnessed by so many people. I had not realized how infectious his being and spirit was until his wake. He has touched so many lives for the better.
People began to question what happened. Karin tried her best to tell us what happened but at the same time you could see her struggling to breath and take in what she was just told by the police. It grew very cold; reality mixed with outrage started to set in. Who did this, why? Why? Why? God why? I could feel my heart beating faster and my mind raced as I searched for a way to change this all. If I could just get to Andrew and figure out a plan to revive him, maybe something was overlooked, maybe I did have some superhero power to snatch him back. I just got to get to him. They would not let us near him. This was now a crime scene. He was there alone without his family. God this is killing me. I can only imagine what Karin was feeling. Imaging how so many families, like our family, is now feeling being ripped away from their loved one way too soon.
Karin and Andrew had a very unique bond. They were more like best friends and their relationship sustained them through many tests and trials and it ultimately became something that was immeasurable to us. Their love was a testament to compassion, dedication, and family above all else. Truly she is a great mother regardless of the roadblocks placed in her way. With Andrew at her side and then along with his siblings, Symona, Alec, Micah, and Amira, Karin rose to great heights. This weekend she is graduating from college. However she will be graduating without the one person who would have most appreciated the sacrifices she made to do it. She will have Alayna Marie, Andrew’s 2 year old daughter, a piece of Andrew, there in his place.
The police kept pushing us onto the corner. By this time a rather large crowd gathered on 50th and Congress to dispel or confirm the rumors. I was numb by this time as it was becoming more and more apparent that Andrew would not be coming down that street no matter what I was trying to will or ask God to do. He just was not. I was trying to hold up my sister, hearing her cries that will haunt me forever, for her baby boy, starting to believe this horrific story. What could I say, what could I do to take this away from her and protect her in the way Andrew would want me to? I don’t have that gift that came so easy for him. I was at a loss, I couldn’t talk, I couldn’t move, yet I couldn’t be still. There was something I needed to do, but what? Asking questions only led to more questions and no answers. Not having answers led to more anger and rage. If Andrew was not coming out of the house, where was the assailant who did this so we could see the face of evil and ask them why? I wanted revenge, I wanted answers, and I wanted to retaliate. These were immediate thoughts but any retaliation would not bring back Andrew.
Andrew came to school at my campus in these last months. We got to rekindle our bond and I thank God for those memories of getting to see Andrew every day with Stevie (my son) by his side. I got to talk to this man and have fun again and laugh hysterically as I worried about what Andrew might do to get us all in trouble. During this time I remembered to loosen up again, before I became such an uptight boring, serious adult. Why so serious? Andrew said. He was right why was I so serious? It’s life! One last gift he gave to me. He was unselfish like that. That was Andrew.
He was at my bedside when I got very sick and he shared his strength with me, that was Andrew. He gave me a lecture, some questions to answer and some good advice! That very much was Andrew!
He was my protector on a few occasions and I never really knew how to thank him. He protected me from myself sometimes. He had to be the mature one! He was wise in many ways, more so than I about a few different things. That was Andrew.
Yes he had some typical young male tendencies but his new found joy in Alayna Marie started to settle him into fatherhood and manhood, which for him was a role he seemed born to play. He was a perfect dad. Simply perfect!
As the eldest sister, not only do you not want to see your nephew hurt. It burns you to your soul to see your siblings or family in any form of discontent. This is your charge as the eldest. You are the protector, the shield, the rock. And for that night I prayed I could have the powers of a superhero to give my sister back her baby and return Andrew back to this space unharmed. It was so cold that night, not only in temperature but a darkness that set into my soul and now the world looked so different, so dark and so bleak, void of a very big presence. Void of Andrew’s physical self. He was larger than life.
Just a week or so ago, with some money in his hand Andrew asked me to buy him lunch. He knew I wasn’t falling for that line, but he did this most days. He hugged me every day and his skinny little arms gave hugs (arms tattooed with his cherished reminders of his grandmother’s love for him among other things), that were truly genuine. He never took those moments for granted, you could just tell. He reminded everyone of who he was and who they would have to answer to if they should cross him. This accomplished young man was proud of me and proud for me. Not very often did I see him angry. It was not easy or fun having your aunt over your shoulder at school, but you could not tell from Andrew. He and my oldest son Steven made my day! They were like a tornado in the hallways and their ability to be charming and witty captured everyone for good or for bad. They were a dynamic duo! Joking all the time and causing trouble, yet it was hard to get mad at Andrew, next to impossible because he was that damn funny. You could not take him seriously unless discussing his daughter. That was serious business! He had a responsibility and mission to see Alayna accomplish great things. He was bound and determined to do that. He was also as loyal about his friends and family. He bragged about their accomplishments as if they were his own. That was Andrew. However he had accomplished a lot as well, and he never was boastful. He was just happy.
The next day in Andrew’s apartment was just as unbearable, no clues, no Horatio or CSI team, no Law and Order Criminal Investigation Unit, no Criminal Minds profiling and no one-hour closing to this story. We are left with fragments of a possible burglary gone wrong if that indeed was what happened. We are left wondering what Andrew’s last moments were like. Was it an associate, or an outright stranger who did this? We combed the place over and over but again walked away empty. Bullet holes laced the scene of what was Andrew’s safe haven and Alayna’s home. The stockings and tree still there to remind us of the magical holiday Andrew was creating for Alayna, now just an eerie silence as we all pondered what transpired in this space just hours previous.
I am asking my community, like too many other families have had to ask before me, to help us find answers and justice for Andrew and for our family.
One too many of our babies have been killed…
Another family burying another young man….
The story is sadly the same, but of course Andrew’s story is unique to us as well as is the pain of closing his casket and asking God to keep him until we join him again. However his spirit and what we know to be Andrew lives on and only grows stronger. Some things not even the devil or a bullet cannot take away. That was Andrew, that will always be Andrew and he will always be among us and a part of us.
May God’s peace be with you until we meet again Andrew Damone…
Until then, know that we will never stop loving you and we will always support, protect, and provide for Karin and Alayna, Symona, Alec, Micah and Amira as we know you would have us to do.
As for the person who did this, know you are in our prayers as well. However you need to come forward because we will never rest until we see you and we understand why you took away this sacred gift and you do have to answer for your crime.
Please note that there are accounts to help the family in a way that you feel comfortable.
The Andrew Damone Tyler Memorial Fund
To help Karin with burial expenses and to seek justice for Andrew.
The Alayna Marie Tyler Benefit Fund
To help LaToya and the Tyler family raise Alayna and educate her in the way Andrew was working so hard to do.
Both Funds are at The Educator’s Credit Union
414-325-2500 Toll Free 1-800-236-5898
P O Box 081040 Racine WI 53408
For any information regardless of how insignificant please call the Milwaukee Police Department at 414-933-4444
The MPD has an anonymous tip resource online at
Andrew’s Memorial Video
I leave you with this song from James Fortune that Mr. Lincoln Russell sang so eloquently at Andrew’s Home going hoping it will comfort you as it has me. God be with you all and let us stay in community working for peace, justice, and a renewed sense of purpose for our young people, especially those taken by violence. We must work to make this world safe for them and us to live in.
I believe the storm will soon be over
I believe the rain will go away
I believe that I can make it through it
I believe….It’s already done
I believe family will get better
I believe God will provide
I believe the promise that He made
I believe …. It’s already done
I believe that my God is a healer
I believe that I will survive
I believe that God is able
I believe….It’s already done
Thy will be done…
and aka WW