Tyshon Jones would show his father Bible passages and tell him, “ ‘You’ve got to read this. ’ ”
“ ‘Tyshon, I don’t understand it, ’ ” he’d reply.
“ ‘Dad, you got to read it,’ ” the son persisted.
“I didn’t understand the stuff he was sending me,” Pernell Jones Sr. said. “He knew what he was sending me.”
Tyshon Jones’ family and church community remembered him as a spiritual man devoted to his church, a self-driven man who wanted to help.
His parents and pastor were among those who spoke March 14 at a news conference at Spiritus Christi Church organized by Rev. Myra Brown, Tyshon Jones’ cousin. Dozens of people stood on the steps behind and to the side of the family, and supporters extended back into the church itself.
“We’re hurting,” his father said.
Tyshon Jones, 29, who lived in Gates, was shot and killed shortly after 3 a.m. March 10 in front of the Open Door Mission, 210 W. Main St. by a Rochester Police Department officer.
According to police, officers had been called to the Open Door Mission after a person allegedly took knives. Body camera footage showed Tyshon Jones walking on Industrial Street and Cascade Drive, holding a knife and threatening police officers as they repeatedly told him to drop the knife.
Video showed an officer retreating on West Main Street. In front of the Open Door Mission, the officer said, “Don’t, don’t, don’t. Back up right now.” Tyshon Jones appeared to continue to advance and the officer fired five times from his service weapon.
The officer then led the effort to save him. Tyshon Jones was pronounced dead about an hour later at a hospital.
Gates Police said earlier in the day they had been called to a store where Tyshon Jones allegedly got involved with a customer who ended up buying him some food. When police encountered Tyshon Jones, he was without shoes. Police convinced him to let them take him to a shelter on Hobart Street and then found him a pair of boots so he could be let inside.
“His life was based on God,” said his mother, Kennetha Short. “He read the Bible multiple times daily. He prayed multiple times daily. He said his only wish that he wanted God to grant is that all his family made it into heaven.”
Short said her son is the third member of her household to die in the past three months.
“December 26, we lost my grandmother,” she said. “March 1, we lost my mother. March 10, the day we were burying my mother, my son was taken from us.
“I have had three major tragedies in my life from December until now. I am not okay. And I’m okay to say I’m not okay. I want my son to come and walk through my door again. My son was struggling with the loss of matriarchs of his family. He was struggling. He was crying out … So from December, until today, every member of my home is deceased.”
Bishop Burnice B. Green, pastor of God’s Vision Ministries, said Tyshon Jones had been part of a youth team and was always willing to help with whatever needed to be done.
“He texted me a few weeks ago and said ‘I can’t wait for church to open back up … I want to be part of what’s going on in the ministry.’” Green said he was keeping the text.
“Who was Tyshon Jones?” his grandmother, Phyllis Lowry said. “He was a voice crying in the wilderness on behalf of the Lord. If he could help somebody along the way, he believed his living would not be in vain. My grandson’s crime was he had a mental issue. He was not some dude strung out on drugs, he was not some dude that was killing folk. He was a king. He was the son of a true and living God.”
She said that as she watched the final moments of her grandson’s life, she believed “the Lord dispatched an angel and he snatched his spirit to the Lord and he called my grandson home. …. If my grandson was to sacrifice to save another Black boy or Black girl, then so be it, Lord. But my grandson’s life will not go in vain.”
Brown said that instead, police failed to make a plan of safety so that her cousin “could go home to get treatment.”
In the past month, RPD officers had been criticized for using pepper spray in what activists said were inappropriate situations – on a 9-year-old who was refusing to get into a patrol car and on a mother who had her 3-year-old with her when she was stopped for suspected shoplifting. Brown said in the instance with her cousin, police did not opt for pepper spray, or waiting for a less-lethal device such as a taser or beanbag gun to be brought to the scene.
She said he was viewed only “as black and dangerous instead of sick and needing mental health services. … His struggle became a death sentence and it never should have been. The system failed him. It failed his parents. It failed his community.”
Brown said that to provide safety for people of color, the pastors roundtable submitted a proposal as part of the city’s response to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s executive order for municipalities to reinvent public safety. She called for ending the age limit at which parents can advocate for their adult children with mental illness, and she said RPD needs to have half of the officers deployed to a mental health call for a Black or Latino to be an officer of color, and that one of those officers be in charge at the scene.
“At the very least, our children should be able to come home,” she said.