Slain Maryland postal worker grew up in Rock Hill

adys@heraldonline.comNovember 25, 2013 

Tyson Barnette

Thanksgiving week is supposed to be about family flung far coming home, with parades, football and commercials for big sales all over television.

Instead, the Barnette family on Monday was planning a funeral, and the television in their Rock Hill home was tuned to CNN.

“Postal worker murdered,” the headline on the screen read.

That postal worker was Tyson Barnette, who grew up in Rock Hill, son of Bridget and Clayton Barnette.

Tyson Barnette, 26, lived in suburban Maryland outside Washington, D.C., where he had worked for six years as a mail carrier for the U.S. Postal Service.

When he would visit home, this oldest of five children always brought presents and so much more for his family. He was a success and a hard worker after a solid career in the classroom and art studios and on the playing fields of Northwestern High School.

Now, a murder victim in front of America and the world, his shooting death big news on national news shows and websites around the world.

“My oldest son, and somebody killed him,” said Bridget Barnette. “He was such a good son. He loved his brothers and sisters. He worked hard. He was good. A good man.”

Bridget Barnette drives a school bus for special needs students in Rock Hill. Those special kids call her “Ms. B.”

On Monday, she turned her face from the image of her son on national television, yet again breaking a heart already shattered.

Tyson Barnette was in the midst of an extra shift delivering mail for the U.S. Postal Service at about 7:20 p.m. Saturday, after finishing his regular shift. He was helping out another worker and earning some extra money, some of which would go to his brothers and sisters, to a mother who drives a school bus for a living.

It was dark as he pulled up to the 1600 block of Reed Street in Landover, Md., a suburb of Washington about 10 miles from where he lived.

That’s when someone shot him a bunch of times as he sat in his delivery truck.

“Killed him in cold blood as he was there in the dark,” said an uncle, Jeffrey Davis. “It is so sick, there are not words to describe it. Maybe it was a gang initiation. We don’t know.

“All we know is they killed an innocent man, a young man working for a living.”

The story of the murder of Tyson Barnette ran over and over on CNN, and his family watched it all, weeping in frustration and anger. They watched his face come up on the screen and heard a voice talk about an unsolved crime that has shocked the nation’s capital and prompted a $125,000 reward from the post office and Prince George’s County Crime Stoppers.

“Tyson worked hard, six days a week,” said Felita Guy, an aunt. “I lived there, so he moved up after high school and he went right to work. He and my son lived together. Tyson was a motivated, hard-working, young man. He was what a young man is supposed to be.”

Detectives with the Prince George’s County police are searching for the killer or killers with help from the Postal Service’s investigative unit, Officer 1st Class Harry Bond, police spokesman, said Monday.

“There is not a lot we can say right now,” Bond said. “It is under investigation.”

Because Barnette was a federal worker on duty, it could be a death penalty case.

“Whoever did this gave my son the death penalty,” Bridget Barnette said.

The family is shocked at the brutality and senselessness of the crime.

“Tyson was a young man who did all the right things, worked hard,” said Benita Davis, an aunt. “He was a quiet man, reserved. He was a good and decent person.”

Barnette was always looking out for his two younger brothers and two younger sisters, said one of those sisters, Cathryn Barnette.

“He was a great big brother, protective,” she said. “Loving and caring. He watched out for all of us.”

The family shares the concerns of the postal carriers’ union, which has questioned the safety of delivering mail after dark.

“We are all deeply saddened,” said Fredric V. Rolando, president of the National Association of Letter Carriers. “This tragic incident highlights the need – in all operational decisions about how and when mail is delivered – to give priority consideration to the safety of these dedicated public servants.”

Jeffrey Davis, Barnette’s uncle, said postal vehicles should be equipped with surveillance cameras, just as police cars are.

“If someone was targeting the vehicle, the camera would have seen it,” Davis said.

Tyson Barnette’s grandfather, Sam Barnette, also drives a Rock Hill school bus. Co-workers at the school bus depot were despondent over the killing. Another co-worker’s son was killed in Rock Hill just weeks ago.

And now this.

“Tyson was a gentle spirit, a wonderful young man,” said Ann Burris, a bus driver and co-worker of the Barnettes at the school bus lot. “He had this beautiful smile. It is terrible that someone would kill him.”

Sam Barnette thought about staying home from work Monday, but drove his bus instead.

“The kids need me,” he said, then walked out to the parking lot to board his bus.

“I can’t just sit home and think about someone who would kill my grandson for no reason,” Sam Barnette said. “I can’t watch it on the news. This is just violence that took a young man’s life, when that young man was working hard.

“He was a young man, my grandson, that we were all proud of. And now he’s gone.”

Andrew Dys •  803-329-4065 •  adys@heraldonline.com

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