It hurt my heart to learn about the shooting death of another young man in Oakland. It hurt even more when I realized I knew him: Tyler Jamison. The Feb. 12 Daily Cal article about a “Berkeley teenager shot in Oakland identified by police” deepened the pain.
Instead of learning anything about 17-year-old Tyler, the article re-reports speculations about his death and suggests circumstances leading to his death. We know nothing about the child he was or the man he will never get to be. The lede suggests the shooting was gang-related, but assertion by Oakland police is only speculation at this point.
Citing the Oakland Tribune, the Daily Cal reports that authorities charged Tyler in an attempted murder for an altercation injuring two other juveniles last fall but that the charges were dropped. The Tribune reported prosecutors dropped the charges against Jamison “because witnesses in the case refused to testify,” but the Daily Cal writes “witnesses refused to testify against Jamison.” Untrue to the original source, it could be read that Tyler may have intimidated witnesses. The article concludes suggesting the incidents may have been related, despite no connections being reported.
Following the story laid out by the Daily Cal, a reader, knowing nothing more about Tyler than the allegedly gang-related nature of his shooting, his alleged involvement in a previous shooting and the subsequent refusal of witnesses to testify, might assume this young man met his fate. The only original reporting appears to be a confirmation by Berkeley Unified School District that Tyler transferred to an unknown school. It’s interesting that the district did not know — or maybe didn’t care — where he transferred.
Instead of telling readers about who this young man was, the Daily Cal traps him in his circumstances. At least it did not identify him as a “South Berkeley teenager” or other euphemisms or code words used to criminalize some members of the population. Deadlines aside, it may have been prudent to try to find information about Tyler via social media or even to visit Berkeley Tech to get reactions from his former teachers and classmates.
Two years ago, I met Jamison in those South Berkeley classrooms while working for Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson. I helped facilitate an ancestry project for young black males to learn about their family roots through genealogy. I remember Tyler being a bold, intelligent, absolutely hilarious and critically thinking young man, climbing out of challenging circumstances to find his way in the world.
Supervisor Carson, a South Berkeley native who visited the class to share his story, remembered Tyler, too. After the project, he offered Tyler and another young man internships in his office.
“When Tyler was an intern in our office, he always showed up on time and was polite and respectful,” Carson recalled. “In his interactions with our staff, Tyler was insightful, humorous and genuinely interested in learning about government.”
We watched this young man grow tremendously over just a few short months as he challenged himself to learn more about himself and his ancestry. Sadly, he will never be able to pass down the knowledge he gained to the next generation.
“It is tragic to see a young black man with potential denied the chance to turn his life around,” Carson said. “My thoughts and prayers are with his family, friends and teachers.”
For some, Tyler will be remembered as Oakland’s ninth homicide of 2013. For others, contrary to media reports, he will remain a dream denied and a positive spirit in our thoughts for years to come.
Reginald James is a senior at UC Berkeley.