Mother speaks out after son's slaying


Tyshaun Henry


By William F. West
Staff Writer

Monday, June 19, 2017

CAMDEN — The mother of the 19-year-old man fatally shot in Elizabeth City late last week is stunned about what happened to her son.

"He didn't deserve that," Arnita Cowell said of her son and only child, Tyshaun Henry. "He was a kindhearted man."

Henry died at Sentara Albemarle Medical Center after a shooting on Friday evening that also wounded a Pasquotank County woman, McKenzie Farr, 18. Farr was airlifted to Sentara Norfolk General Hospital in Virginia, where Elizabeth City police have said she is in critical but stable condition.

Cowell, 45, discussed her son’s death in an interview at her Camden residence Sunday. She said that she first learned of the news at approximately 10 p.m. Friday after being awakened by the sound of knocking on her door.

She said when she opened the door, she saw two Elizabeth City police officers and a Camden County sheriff's deputy. There had been a shooting and her son had not survived, she said the officers told her.

"I couldn't believe it," she said. "I said, 'No, not my baby, not my baby.'"

In disbelief, she asked them whether he was still being treated by doctors.

"No, he didn't survive," she recalled being told.

Cowell described what happened as like something having popped out and hit her hard.

"It was just overwhelming," she said. "It was a shock. I didn't want to believe it."

"I was like, 'That can't be true'," she said.

Elizabeth City police have said officers, after receiving reports of the gunfire Friday evening, responded to the 100 block of Celeste Street, where they found two wounded persons.

Pasquotank-Camden Emergency Medical Services officials have said they first received a call at 7:40 p.m. and have said teams transported a male and a female to the Elizabeth City hospital.

On Saturday, a house at 118 Celeste could be seen sealed off with yellow crime scene tape, with an officer in a police car and keeping an eye on the scene.

Cowell said the property at 118 Celeste had been the residence of her aunt Suella Dew, a former hairdresser who died in late April 2014 at age 88.

According to Cowell, her son was keeping the 118 Celeste residence so nobody could try to vandalize the property.

Cowell said her son had been staying there and every now and then at her home in Camden County.

Cowell said her son, a 2015 graduate of Camden County High School, had been in the power washing business.

The mother works at her home in technical support for printing giant Canon, which has a center in Virginia's Hampton Roads area.

She said her son would go out on Friday and Saturday evenings and be out late and noted he had many friends locally.

She said, however, he had set out a container of his favorite brand of biscuits for her to prepare for him upon his arrival at her home.

Although Cowell said she has neither met nor knows Farr, she feels for the teen.

"That's terrible," Cowell said of Farr's condition.

Elizabeth City police have listed Farr's residence as in the 1100 block of Salem Church Road, which is in the Weeksville community of Pasquotank County.

Attempts to locate relatives of Farr possibly living in that block on Salem Church Road or any neighbors who knew of Farr having lived in that block of Salem Church Road were unsuccessful on Sunday.

Elizabeth City police spokesman Larry James on Sunday had no further information about the case beyond two brief press releases issued on Saturday.

James on Sunday also did not respond to specific emailed questions. They included whether the police department could provide a brief narrative about the gunfire and whether investigators have determined a motive behind the shootings.

Cowell, meantime, said she has been relying on televised news accounts for updates about the case. She said police have not told her how many times her son was shot and said police have not told her where he was struck by the gunfire.

As for how Cowell has been taking her son's death, she said she has cried and suffered from irregular, trembling-like feelings in her stomach.

"It's a mess," she said of her physical state.

She said she has been able to get some sleep.

As Cowell was speaking on Sunday, Henry's grandfather Cardwell Cowell entered with a bag of food he had bought at an eatery in Camden.

Cardwell Cowell, 66, when asked his reaction to the death of his grandson, said, "I felt like, 'What in the world is going on? This is something crazy.'"

Asked whether he knows of anyone who might have wanted to harm his grandson, he said, "I don't."

As for how he has handled the situation, he said, "I've been taking it bad because it was not expected."

The one thing that seems to have heartened both Cowells is the outpouring of support in the aftermath of the death of Henry.

"They come in swarms," Arnita Cowell said of the numbers of people who arrive at her residence to pay respects. "It's supportive. It helps."

Funeral arrangements for Henry are pending with Mitchell Funeral Care and Cremations in Elizabeth City.

Cowell had a guest book near a wall in the living room of her residence Sunday.

Cowell also showed a display of snapshots of her son from his childhood to his graduation from Camden County High.

As for how she is going to handle her son's death in the long term, she said, "I'm just taking it one day at a time, one step at a time."