2008-05-30 / Front Page

Mom: Shot Teen Mistaken For His Cousin

By Howard Schwach

Tyrese Johnson, 16, saw his life turning around and he was excited.

Tyrese Johnson at various times of his life, in a photomontage provided to The Wave by his family. Tyrese Johnson at various times of his life, in a photomontage provided to The Wave by his family. He was back in Rockaway after living with his aunt in Raleigh, North Carolina for nearly a year. He had just been accepted to a GED program that came with a $150 a week job.

"Pop," as everybody called him, came home and showed his mom, Sharon Johnson, his acceptance papers.

He watched some television and ate some lunch.

A friend knocked on the door and he went with the friend to Mott Avenue, where his friend wanted to buy a phone card.

His mother called him on his cell phone.

"Why did you go out," she asked, concerned with his safety in a neighborhood where a young girl had been killed a little more than a day earlier and where five men had been shot just hours earlier.

"Just walking around the corner to get something," he answered.

"Be careful. It's dangerous out there," his mother reminded him.

"It's OK, I won't forget," he answered as he hung up.

Minutes later, Johnson was dead, the victim of a shooting that his mother says was a case of mistaken identity.

Police say that Johnson and his unidentified friend were walking into a restaurant at 1075 Beach 21 Street at about 2:15 p.m. on May 19 when he was shot once in the head, at close range.

"Make sure that you put in the paper that Tyrese was mistaken for his cousin on his father's side," Sharon Johnson told The Wave on Wednesday morning. "Make sure that everybody knows that he was a good boy who was lovable, who did not like violence. When he saw an argument, he would smile and walk away."

According to Johnson, this was not the first time that her son was mistaken for his cousin.

In early January of 2007, Tyrese was going to practice at the IS 53 gymnasium on Nameoke Street, when he was arrested by detectives from the 101 Precinct for a robbery earlier that day.

Johnson says that Tyrese, who looks just like his cousin, told the detectives that he did not do anything, but they would not believe him, because he fit the description of the robber.

She went to the precinct and told cops that they should be looking for his cousin.

The police, she continues, held him for three days before taking him to central booking and Queens Supreme Court.

Johnson says that a court officer told her that Tyrese had no part in the robbery, but that the cops were going to blame it on him anyway.

A lawyer told her that her son was innocent. They moved the case to family court, where Tyrese was sentenced to probation and community service.

He had to be in the house by 6 p.m. each night.

He did his community service cleaning the park on Beach 89 Street, his mother said. But he became very depressed, and started cutting his classes at Far Rockaway High School.

She decided to send him to North Carolina to live with her sister, and he agreed.

Tyrese did well in North Carolina, she said. He attended Nightdale High School, where he had a 96 average.

But, he was bored with living in North Carolina.

He begged to come home to Rockaway, where he had all his friends, including his girlfriends. He had attended PS 106, IS 53 and Far Rockaway High School.

Rockaway was his home.

She reluctantly agreed.

Johnson said that everybody loved her son.

"He had lots of friends, particularly the girls," she said. "He was 6'3" and played basketball well. He played everywhere from the [PS] 104 playground to [MS] 53 to Hammels. Everybody wanted him on their team."

She said that she buried her son on Tuesday, May 27.

"His father never had anything to do with him, never even saw him," she said. "But it was his side of the family that got Tyrese killed. Everybody said he looked just like his cousin. His cousin is a robber. Somebody who he robbed came back looking for his cousin, and now Tyrese is dead because he looked like a Jackson."

"Tyrese loved two things," his mother said. "Basketball and girls. Now, he's dead."

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