PE teenager mowed down by gangsters
“Tell everyone I love them” – these were the dying words of a Port Elizabeth teenager, who took his last breath as he lay cradled in his younger brother’s arms shortly after being shot in Bethelsdorp.
Tyrique Cornelius, 16, became the latest victim of the ongoing shootings in the city’s northern areas when a group of suspected gangsters started firing wildly in Kido Crescent, Bethelsdorp, on Sunday night.
Tyrique was in a group of four friends who were sitting outside a house, about 100m from his own home, when the shooting broke out.
Police said the youngsters were not part of any gang.
A second person in the group – an 18-year-old, who is not being named as he is a witness to a crime – was wounded and is being treated in hospital.
It is feared that he could be paralysed as he can only move his head and arm at this stage.
The two others in the group, both 20, are not being identified for their own safety.
Tyrique’s mother, Gloria Cornelius, 39, said she heard the gunfire.
“I was taking a nap and jumped out of bed when I heard the gunshots, thinking ‘where is my son?’
“My son ran up [one street from the house] and jumped over two walls, and eventually collapsed in my immediate neighbour’s backyard.”
Cornelius said someone came to call them and her youngest son found Tyrique lying on his arm, which was broken, in the neighbour’s yard.
“It was dark and we couldn’t see any gunshot wounds but we saw that his arm was broken.
“My dearest boy carried his [fatally wounded] brother,” she said, fighting back the tears.
“My dear, quiet son held his brother in his arms while we rushed him to the hospital, but when we arrived he was already dead.”
Cornelius said they only saw the gunshot wounds when they arrived at the hospital.
“They tried to resuscitate him and his heart started to beat again – but only for a few seconds.
“They tried again for 40 minutes to resuscitate him, but nothing helped because he had internal bleeding.”
She said Tyrique’s younger brother was not coping well.
“He’s in a state. They gave him something because he can’t remember how he got home. But this morning it was tears again.”
The 14-year-old, who sat quietly as his mother spoke, was too traumatised to comment.
He had been sedated and frequently got up, leaving the room when the conversation about his brother’s death became too much to bear.
The tall, lean young boy pulled his hoodie over his head and rested his face on his arm.
“The family is not taking it well but we have a lot of support from Ricky’s friends, the church and from family friends,” Cornelius said.
“My son [Tyrique] was very active – he did judo, he played soccer and was very popular here in the neighbourhood.”
According to Cornelius, the wounded 18-year-old’s family told her that the four friends had been approached by some guys who just opened fire on them.
“When they saw the guns, they ran, [a bullet] hit my son in his lower back and another bullet [pierced] his lung, which caused the internal bleeding.”
She said the wounded boy had been shot in his upper spine.
Police spokesperson Colonel Priscilla Naidu said that while the four friends were not gangsters, it was believed that the shooters were.
Naidu said the incident happened at about 6.15pm while the friends were sitting on the steps at the back of a house in Extension 21.
“The friends were looking at a cellphone and chatting [at the time].
“[Tyrique] was shot multiple times.
"He passed away at the hospital.
“The injured man was also taken to hospital.”
She said the motive for the shooting was unknown.
“It is believed that the shooting was carried out by a group of three individuals, one of whom was armed.”
Gary van Niekerk, who started a Facebook page called Stop Northern Areas Shootings, said: “It’s a realistic fear that [the 18-year-old] could be paralysed for life because he is unable to feel his lower body.”
He said gangsterism was a serious issue.
“The situation is very volatile on the ground with a lot of the youth in the northern areas being killed randomly.”
National Freedom Party leader Basil Leverment, who visited the Cornelius home on Monday, said the residents of the northern areas were sick of the shootings.He said it was frightening that gangsters had such easy access to guns and ammunition.“These gangsters are going around shooting 10-20 rounds of bullets at a go, which raises the question, where are they getting so much ammunition?”He said it was perhaps time for the defence force to step in and be visible in the area.Naidu said the shooting came after Keenan Visagie, 18, and Kenneth Lindoor, 45, were shot dead in separate incidents in Bethelsdorp last week.The provincial organised crime investigation unit is investigating..