RIP Tyler Donald Gulliver

April 30th 1972 – July 8th 1995

Father, brother, son. Gone but not forgotten

Today is the 15th anniversary of my brother’s murder.

The tattoo I had done on the 13th anniversary.

It’s unrelated to normal topics on my blog, but at the same time, I find that he is increasingly on my mind here. I think Tyler would have liked New Orleans; a predominately black city with lots of hot grls and drinking on the streets. He probably would have been a hit.  On Facebook today a few of my friends commented about his smile and his devilish appeal; such a charmer.

His eldest daughter, Tiffany, has a picture of him tattooed on her back. You can see a hint of that charm in his grin.

Tiffany’s tattoo of her dad.

I think that my memories of him are stronger here for a few reasons. One is timing; the 15th anniversary today and his 18 year old daughter about to give birth to his grandchild next month. His kids have grown up without him, and now his grandkids will never know him.

Certainly race is another one of the reasons he is on my mind. Tyler’s killing was race-related, and so many of the issues tied into day-to-day existence here including crime, but also post-Katrina recovery, are intricately linked with racism, and racial discrimination.

I find that there is a new group of people here that I coined “wuppies” yesterday when thinking about them. Kind of like yuppies but all white. It’s that group of white folks who have come to “save New Orleans”, to make it better, to change it, to help it recover. There are many good-intentioned people who have come since the storm; actually, probably all of them (all of us because I fit in there) have good intentions, but the techniques vary. It’s actually something I am contemplating studying; how have the changing demographics of New Orleans affected the very nature of the city.

But the ones that I think of as wuppies don’t have an understanding of race and class, or if they do, it’s not a critical understanding. Rather, it’s  “I know what New Orleans needs and I will fix it my way” as opposed to, “I’m here to help, tell me what to do.” I hope that I fit into the latter category, I want to work with residents in the ways that they identify as being important.  The wuppies, through their lack of race & race conciousness, are engaging in various forms of classism and racism.

I think distance from family is another reason for thinking about Ty. Some of that distance occurred at home too.  In the world of dysfunctional families, it also happens to be 5 years since I talked to my brother Trevor; I called him on the 10th anniversary to make sure he called our parents since it was such a significant date. We have become Facebook friends since then, but we don’t talk; we’re merely linked to each other’s profiles.

But I am quite close with my sister Tara, and her kids, Aisha and Talik. I try to see them at least monthly, and sometimes more. I see my parents on a regular basis, and see Tiff and Tash (Tyler’s kids) as much as is possible; the grls and I stay in touch online at least. The geographic distance is challenging; I know only a few people here. At home I had a circle of friends, who, even if I wasn’t in regular contact with them, I knew would do whatever they could to help if I needed support.

When we were little (front to back – Tara, Trevor, Tyler and me).

I went looking back at my old livejournal posts and found one I wrote on the 10th anniversary. I actually remember writing it and how I was feeling at the time; how can it be that another five years have passed?

Details of the murder seem to be easy to say.  I suppose they are kind of shocking and graphic for those who haven’t heard it before,  I’ve told the story so many times before that it is as if I  distanced myself to tell it. I was telling some new friends about it  the other day, and I could hear myself saying it almost flatly. If I tell it as I feel it then the hurt and pain is much more present.
July 8th 1995. I received a call from my sister just before 7pm telling me my baby brother had been murdered. My parents, in a weird twist of fate, had come across the scene, found out it was him, and were at the police station within 20 minutes of him being killed, so we knew rather fast.

My dad dropped my brother off at this house on George Street in Peterborough in the morning. Tyler and the people in the apt spent the day drinking – mostly beer. No drugs were involved. Tyler and Billy Snape (the guy who ended up killing him) had been arguing and fighting all day. They were playing “I’m tougher than you” and “I did better/harder/more time than you”.  Stupid guy ex-con stuff.

My brother was adopted and was mixed race. At some point in the day Billy started saying “I don’t like niggers.” One of the grls who was there kept explaining “Tyler’s not a nigger, he’s just black” (which supposedly meant something in terms of behaviours). Billy and Tyler “took it outside” a couple of times but came back in acting like friends; until it started up again.

During the course of the day Billy ordered a bottle of bootleg whiskey. He started to drink it and got quite drunk. He had bought a new buck knife the day before and had been playing with it all day; opening and closing the blade, cleaning his nails etc.

Just after 6pm Billy was in the living room and looked up to see Tyler in the kitchen pouring a drink of the bootleg. He stood up and moved towards him saying “I don’t want no nigger drinking my whiskey”. He stabbed him once through the chest, Tyler bled out and died within a couple of minutes. Al MacKay (one of the guys whose house it was) pulled Billy off Ty and got stabbed in the lung (which deflated). Jeffrey Carondonna (another guy there) pulled Billy off Al and got stabbed in the hand as they rolled down the stairs.

Billy ended up getting charged with 1 count of 1st degree murder, and two counts of attempted. By the time of the December 1995 trial it had been reduced to one count of second degree. Jeffrey took off and was later charged with failing to appear as a witness. Al and his brother John seemed to develop amnesia and claimed not to remember anything. The grls that were there said they didn’t see anything. (the police version of events matches the street story we heard so we assume it’s quite accurate).

Billy pled guilty in Feb 96 to involuntary manslaughter and received a 5 year sentence. He served about 2 and was released. He died a couple of years ago in “mysterious” circumstances.

I’ve done a whole bunch of work around healing, grieving, forgiveness including some ritual stuff. I am off to a new friend’s place today to redo one of the rituals; it’s private so that’s as much as I can say about it but I am happy to have found someone here who can help me with it.

Trevor, Tyler, me, Tara, JJ (in front) and Scott (the latter two were neighbours as kids)