By Carla Thomas
The Truth Contributor
All too often we turn on the news only to hear of yet another young black life being taken. So often to the point that our senses are becoming numb to it and unless it’s our loved one or someone we know, we turn off the television or scroll past the story on our newsfeed and forget the information almost as quickly as we heard it.
Some of us may go as far as saying a small prayer while truly meaning it, or even post a rant on social media expressing our disdain for “black-on-black” crime, but if we’re truly honest, most of us will forget the name, the face and we’re on to the next big story.
Parents of murdered children don’t have that luxury. It’s a pain that lingers long after the news clip has ended, long after friends and family have expressed their condolences, and an eternity after their child who was supposed to outlive them, is laid to rest.
I met Oleen “Cookie” Clinton seven years ago. Upon our first meeting, she shared that her son had been recently murdered. Our connection grew over the years and, recently, I felt compelled to share her story. I’ve often wondered how she’s coping. I see her smile and laugh and yet behind her silliness and laughter, her kindness and out-going charm, lies a dark, unmistakable heaviness in her eyes.
I wanted to share her story to let her, and other parents of murdered children, know that we see you. I also want to help keep her story alive until her son’s murder is solved.
Oleen Clinton became the mother of a murdered son July 24, 2014. Her son was Tyler McIntoush and this is their story.
Tyler would have been 24 years old this year if not for the random act of violence that ended his life prematurely.
According to his mom, on July 24, 2014, Tyler left their home located on Collingwood Boulevard and Highland Avenue sometime after 12 a.m. to meet a female friend at the Church’s Chicken located on Cherry Street where she was working the late shift. She had expressed concerned about walking home alone after her shift, so Tyler agreed to meet her there and walk with her to her home located on Dorr St.
After making sure she made it there safely, Tyler headed back home. The rest of the details are unclear, but as Oleen explains it, “The word on the street is, he was walking home when he encountered two men, words were exchanged and a fight ensued, Tyler was winning and so the man ran back to his van, got a gun and shot him in the head. He died just a few blocks from his home.”
As of the time of this publication, there have been no new leads in the case.
Watching her son’s case grow cold has not been easy for Oleen. “Someone told me I should put pressure on the police to make them do their job” she says, “but for me it’s so difficult after calling and constantly being told there are no new leads . . . it was discouraging.”
Unless we’ve experienced this ourselves, we can’t possibly know the aftermath of such a loss, the grieving process, or how parents of murdered children adjust to a “new normal”.
Experts say that parents of murdered children often speak of being afraid or distrustful, and even angry. Therapist counsel that anger is normal, and the survivors may express their anger in unanticipated ways. It is important for friends and family not to be judgmental and critical because this expression could be an important part of their healing. These truths are echoed in Oleen’s words as she shares some of the emotions she experienced after Tyler’s death.
Oleen explains, “When this first happened, I had to quit my jobs because I hated how I felt towards black people. Not knowing who killed my son, I judged everybody. I was working at Walmart and the DMV at the time of his murder and the locations where I worked were predominantly black. I found myself judging everyone one who came in. I got so sick of people coming in there, especially the young guys who were everything that I was raising my son not to be. I kept seeing it and I hated it because I didn’t want to look at them that way because I didn’t know them and yet I was judging them.
Through tears she continues, “Here I am a mom who taught her son right from wrong and he’s dead while these other kids are living. I didn’t like feeling this way but every time I looked at someone I’m wondering if it was them that killed my son. So, I quit both of my jobs working with the public, I even stopped doing taxes for people, and no longer wanted to be around anybody. I isolated myself.”
It’s so easy to assume that those who die in the streets must have lived a street life, belong to a gang or run with the wrong crowd. Not Tyler.
As described by his mom, Tyler was funny, loved comedy and was always telling jokes. She says, “In school, teachers were surprised to hear that he wanted to be an engineer and not a comedian or writer of comedy.”
His favorite singer was Lady Gaga, and he played the trombone in the band when he attended Springfield Highschool. He also attended Maritime Academy where he would have been a Junior.
One of his first jobs was at Netty’s and Oleen recalls how hard he worked and advocated for a raise because he wanted to buy her a pair of diamond earrings for her birthday. He earned the raise but was murdered before he received the paycheck that he planned on using to purchase the earrings for his mom.
With his picture cradled next to her heart, Oleen shares, “I was doing so good. I graduated, my kids were doing good and once Tyler turned 18, our plan was to move to Yuma, Arizona.” She continues, “He was extremely excited and would tell everyone that when he turns 18, he would be moving to Yuma. That was our goal.”
Lamenting over the parts of his life that she will never be able to experience, Oleen states, “Tyler never got to meet his nephew. My son didn’t get to get his driver’s license, experience prom or graduation . . . he didn’t get to grow up and it hurts not getting to see what he would have turned out to be.”
Most of us know someone whose child has been murdered, and we witness firsthand how they seemingly function day to day. But are we aware of what’s going on behind the smiles and polite gestures?
Our mission should be to understand that everyone will react to their child’s murder in their own way. There is no right or wrong way to grieve, and people process and heal at their own pace.
Oleen states, “I basically quit life. People always say to me, ‘Oh you’re so strong, I don’t know where I would have been, or I would have been in a looney bin somewhere if this happened to me.’ “I want to say to them, what makes me strong? Because I get out of bed? I have to.” She continues, “As far as I’m concerned, my life stopped seven years ago and I let it, but now I’m trying to get it back. I know that I have to get up . . . but some days I don’t want to . . . I swear, if I didn’t have my daughter and grand-kids, I know I would have given up.”
In the midst of her tragedy, Oleen finds comfort in knowing just how much her son was loved.
With a smile on her face, she reminiscences about Tyler’s funeral and how it was standing room only adding that the mayor, city council, and different city leaders were amongst those in attendance. She smiles as she mentions how he always wanted to be famous. Oleen says, “I remember his sister saying, ‘Well at least he’s going out like he was famous’ . . . “my son was a really good kid.”
When asked what she would want people to know, through tears she replied . . .
“Part of my hurt and anger is because I know I put my foot on Tyler’s neck to stay out of the streets. I told him this is what you wear, and this is what you do.
I also taught him how to use a gun and explained to him that this is for protection and not a toy and that once you pull this trigger, whoever you point this at is not coming back. I get angry because my son had access to a gun and could have used it for bad just like these other people, but my son made a choice.”
She adds, “I also want people to know that it hurts, the pain doesn’t go away. Just because you’re smiling on the outside, doesn’t mean it’s not tearing you up on the inside.”
“Just because you’re trying to get through your day does not mean you’re not thinking about your kid. you think about them all day, constantly. I miss him.”
If you have any information on this case, please call Crime Stoppers at (419) 255-1111.