Many in Rock Hill’s Barnette family will travel to the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in Washington, D.C. this weekend, but the trip is not for sightseeing.
The family will take part in a march and rally on Monday, the Marthin Luther King Jr. holiday, because Tyson Barnette, 26, was gunned down outside the nation’s capital just before Thanksgiving. The killing of Barnette, who was delivering mail after dark in suburban Maryland, remains unsolved.
The rally was set up by fellow postal workers who remain upset that carriers are delivering mail at night – but for the Barnette family, it is a reminder that the killer remains on the loose. As the nation remembers the legacy of the civil rights icon who was gunned down in 1968, the family will be remembering a young man who was trying to earn an honest living when he was gunned down in 2013.
“Until the police find out who did this, we will not rest,” said Felita Guy, Barnette’s aunt. “What happened to Tyson should not happen to anyone.”
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Barnette grew up in Rock Hill and left for Washington after graduating from Northwestern High School.
His parents, siblings and many in the extended family are going to be part of the event, which is designed to force the U.S. Postal Service to discontinue after-dark deliveries. Postal workers maintain staffing cutbacks have led to dangerous hours for those who deliver the nation’s mail.
A $125,000 reward has been offered by the federal government and Maryland police since soon after the Nov. 23 killing. Teams of local, state and federal agents have canvassed the Maryland neighborhood where Barnette was killed, going door-to-door to hand out fliers, but still have not caught the person who killed Barnette. Police have given Barnette’s family and the public little information about the investigation, saying only that detectives continue to work the case.
“We just don’t have any information pertaining to the case that we can release at this time,” said Officer Nicole Hubbard, spokeswoman for the Prince George’s County Police Department in Maryland.
Barnette had worked for the Postal Service for six years. On the night he was shot, he was filling in for someone else in an unfamiliar neighborhood when he was stopped at what turned out to be an abandoned home. He was inside his postal service vehicle when he was killed.
Killing sparked outrage
The shooting sparked immediate outrage from postal carriers already upset over cuts that forced longer routes and longer hours on streets that lack proper streetlights. The District of Columbia’s nonvoting representative in Congress also has expressed concern about the late deliveries.
The rally – on the day set aside to honor America’s most revered black leader who was killed in Memphis in 1968 while fighting for the rights of garbage workers – also will raise concerns about the working conditions for postal carriers. Blacks make up almost a quarter of postal workers nationwide, with a far larger percentage in metropolitan areas.
James Knox, a retired carrier outside Washington who grew up in Rock Hill, said there is no good reason Barnette should have been working so late on a dark street. Knox, a lifelong friend of Barnette’s grandfather, Sam Barnette, lives less than a mile from where Barnette was killed.
Because the crime happened so close to Washington – just a few miles away, in Landover, Md. – regional and national media covered Barnette’s killing for days. Police invited reporters to join them as they canvassed the neighborhood where the crime happened, hoping someone would come forward with information.
Looking for answers
The rally will give the family another chance to remind people around Washington that the crime remains unsolved.
“We want all to make sure that this case is solved and that nothing like this ever happens again,” said Guy, Barnette’s aunt.
In Rock Hill, Barnette’s family remains hopeful that the police will crack the case.
“Everywhere I go, people are asking me the same questions that we are asking: “Did they catch someone yet?’ ” said June Barnette, Barnette’s great-uncle. “And we don’t have any answers.”