Thanksgiving week is tough to celebrate for the Barnette family.
Tyson Barnette, born and raised in Rock Hill, an athlete and star student at Northwestern High School, won’t sit down Thursday with his family, hug his mother, eat turkey until he can hardly breathe.
Barnette, 26, was shot and killed a year ago – a life of promise ended with bullets.
“My son, he was a good man,” said Bridget Barnette.
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Tyson Barnette, a postal carrier in the Maryland suburbs of Washington, D.C., was taking an extra shift to cover for a coworker on a cold Saturday when he made a stop to deliver a package at what turned out to be an abandoned house.
Before Barnette could start the U.S. Postal Service truck to finish his route, he was shot while sitting behind the wheel.
Despite a reward of $125,000, neighborhood canvassing, posting of flyers, marches, vigils, surveillance videos and more, police in Prince George’s County and federal postal investigators have not been able to crack the case.
“I believe that the police are doing all they can to solve this,” Bridget Barnette said. “But it is true that I am upset that they haven’t found out who did this to my son.”
Barnette’s family and postal employees were furious that postal service cutbacks forced carriers to deliverpackages and mail after dark in areas known for violence, dark streets and trouble. The labor union that Barnette was a member of demanded action and received some. There have been demonstrations and pleas for change, but for Tyson Barnette, it is too late.
Felita Guy, Barnette’s aunt, said the family will never stop pushing to have the case solved.
“We remember it every day of our lives,” she said.
Rock Hill remembers Barnette, too.
This summer, a memory garden created by the Rock Hill Woman’s Club to show the impact of violence on families, includes a tribute to Barnette.
The hometown kid who moved away to make a life for himself near the big city, who worked hard and played by the rules, who helped his family any way he could. Tyson Barnette helped people with love and money – and more.
“Tyson was so generous, so nice,” Bridget Barnette said. “Nobody deserves to be killed, but he didn’t do anything to anybody. He was just carrying the mail.”
Many of the family will be in Washington Sunday for a vigil to mark the anniversary of Tyson Barnette’s death, and to remind the public around the nation’s capital that the crime is unsolved. As they did a year ago, media in Washington will give the story national play, because the killing came near a holiday and Barnette was a federal employee.
But that doesn’t make the hurt go away.
Afterward, the family will come home to Rock Hill and try to prepare for the holidays.
At the Rock Hill school district bus garage, Bridget Barnette and Tyson’s grandfather, Sam Barnette, arrive before dawn each day to drive other people’s kids and grand kids to school. They will do it again this week until Thanksgiving break.
Then the family will gather for Thanksgiving. Hands will be held. Prayers will be sent.
And there will be one empty chair for a lost son, nephew, grandson.