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A Loss at the Park

Senseless violence claims the life of another Albany youth

by Taylor Morris on May 5, 2011

In the dusk hours of last Saturday evening, 17-year old Albany High School student Tyler Rhodes was fatally stabbed in Albany’s Hoffman Park. A memorial was set up at the same park on Sunday, where a somber group of family and friends gathered to celebrate Rhodes’ life and mourn his passing.

The edge of Hoffman Park is not the only place family and friends are grieving. A Facebook event page was created, encouraging students to wear blue to school this past Monday in honor of Rhodes; status updates and memorial pages on the site are filled with comments about the Albany teen, and many Twitter users have offered their condolences. Rhodes’ school locker became the site of an impromptu memorial, with large posters, signs, pictures, and rosaries adorning it.

On Monday, grief counselors were at multiple schools across the district to help friends and classmates through their mourning. Ron Lekso, communications director for the Albany City School District, said the expansive use of multiple grief counselors was due to Rhodes’ reach and popularity in the community, noting he was “so well liked in our school district,” calling the teen a “great young man . . . that touched a lot of people.”

The Albany Police Department has identified two teenagers, Jah-Lah Tyree Vanderhorst, 16, and Dhoruba Shauib, 19, as the alleged attackers. Both teenagers were arraigned in Albany City Court Tuesday morning, where both plead not guilty. Vanderhorst and Shauib are currently being held without bail in Albany County Jail, and await preliminary hearings that will begin tomorrow.

According to the APD, the attack occurred around 7 PM; Vanderhorst stabbed Rhodes in the upper chest with a knife, while Shauib blocked any possible escape path from behind. Rhodes was treated at the park and transferred to Albany Medical Center where he was later pronounced dead.

Councilman Dominick Calsolaro, whose Ward 1 is home to Hoffman Park, was saddened by the event. “You’re destroying families. . . . It hurts the whole community,” he said. Calsolaro, who attended Sunday’s memorial, says that far more than 100 people turned out over the course of the service. And while many of the young people that attended were saying the “right things,” he worries about what might happen when the next conflict arises. “The violence isn’t solving anything,” the councilman said. “We’ve got to get to the kids when they’re young and start working from there.”

Tomorrow at 7 PM, the SNUG Program is sponsoring an “Aim for Peace” event at the Hoffman Park basketball courts, a favorite stomping ground of Rhodes. Councilman Calsolaro hopes the event will “show support for the families and friends” affected by Rhodes’ murder and also “let people know that as a community we are not accepting of violence and don’t want it in our neighborhoods.”

In 2008, Rhodes was a part of anti-violence event titled “More Rhymes, Less Crimes,” where Rhodes and 13 others rapped, read poetry, and sang on stage at the Palace Theatre, condemning violence in their neighborhoods. The event, a collaboration between District Attorney David Soares’ Enough program and Jamz 96.3, was designed to curb violence in Albany neighborhoods while fostering a strong relationship between the DA’s office and the community at large. A request for comment from Soares’ office was not returned by press time.

The violence of last weekend eerily echoed Rhodes’ lyrics from his Palace Theatre performance nearly three years ago: “Shall we explore what horrible tragedies happened to unsuspecting families when their loved ones die, ” Rhodes rapped, asking, “Why must parents keep cryin’ at the sky, askin’ God why?’”