At the door of Jasmine Pettit’s Glendale home, Mary, a pit bull and chihuahua mix, barks and spins in circles. Inside, Pettit sits in a recliner holding a steaming mug of coffee branded with the words “queen of everything,” the other clutching a cross necklace around her neck.
Pettit speaks quietly about her 25-year-old son Tyler Mead, whom she found April 17 dead in her neighbor’s front yard. She said she believes it was from a random spray of bullets. Glendale Police officials said it’s an open case.
Brandon Mead, Tyler’s older brother by 13 months, lost his best friend and confidant that day.
“Tyler was everybody’s friend,” Pettit said, without hesitation. “I don’t know anybody who didn’t just love Tyler when they met him. He would make everything fun.”
Brandon added, “I’ve had my mom and him my entire life. (They’re) the only two people I’ve really had, you know, because I was picked on a lot in school.”
Pettit and her youngest son had a special bond, and they talked about everything “from the bathroom to the bedroom.” He was a self-described mama’s boy, and, she said, her “little bit of everything. A fantastic human being.”
Pettit has three children by blood, but Tyler and Brandon have four sisters and three brothers — a mix of step- and blood siblings — not including the many friends they also consider family.
Tyler’s friends were always welcome in the home and became like family.
“Tyler would be like, ‘It’s alright. My mama’ll let you stay here,’” she said, laughing. “They became, ‘Oh yeah, this is just another one of my sons.’”
From an early age, Tyler showed his willingness to share with others. At 4 years old, he reserved the best seat in the car — the front seat — for Brandon. When his sister’s baby, Laylani, died shortly after birth, he was there to comfort her.
“She was just so glad that Tyler was the first face she saw, because he just always brought happiness,” Pettit said. “It was just comforting to her to have her older brother there during the most difficult time.”
He also held the important title of Uncle TyTy to Alice, Brandon’s daughter.
Tyler didn’t just love humans; he adored animals. As a child, he wrote a letter to Steve Irwin at the Australia Zoo. He was shocked and thrilled when Irwin sent stickers and a signed letter.
“Tyler was over the moon about it,” Pettit said.
Mary was his greatest love, though. With a tiny blue hoodie to match Tyler’s, she would howl when he came through the door.
“That was like his live-in girlfriend, I guess,” Pettit said with a laugh. “Mary makes a certain noise when Tyler would come through the door. She doesn’t make that noise for anybody else.”
Pettit coaxed Mary to make a similar howl for her and Brandon when they returned home, but she said, “I feel like only because Tyler’s spirit must have been near me.”
Tyler and Brandon shared a bond like many brothers. They argued, but the anger didn’t last.
“We would get into fist fights, then we’d be split up and talked to,” Brandon recalled, smiling. “Of course, 5 minutes after that, we’re hugging each other and telling each other we love each other.”
Their tight-knit group of friends was included in most everything the two brothers did, and they formed a brotherhood with one another. They coined the acronym DC, for Destined Champions and Driven Creators. This phrase is on the back of Brandon’s dog tag.
The boys were always there for each other as they grew older — even in the darkest of times.
As young adults, Brandon and Tyler became addicted to heroin, but worked together to stay sober.
“We were just using, trying to keep our high going,” Brandon said. “But dude, just the whole turn-around. He did a 180 and he did it so quickly. That’s what I say would be his biggest accomplishment.”
A dog tag with Tyler’s face etched into it rests over Brandon’s heart, and a medical alert bracelet is wrapped around his arm.
Brandon developed epilepsy at 25, and often experiences complex partial seizures that have no external triggers. Tyler gave up his room and half his bed to Brandon.
“He’s always been there. I mean, he’s just showed (me) so much love that he gave up half of the bed,” Brandon said.
The family had a routine: First thing in the morning, Brandon woke up and started the coffee pot and then headed to work at Slapfish, a local seafood restaurant on Bell Road in Glendale he loved. Slapfish memorialized Tyler with a plaque.
“Tyler did touch everybody that he dealt with,” Pettit said.
Since Tyler’s passing, the family is getting accustomed to a different routine.
“I’ve been going through so much ever since then, ever since he passed. I started thinking, the one person I would go to right now would be my brother. And he’s gone,” Brandon said. “There are times I’ll just go out front and I’ll look up and talk to him. I’m going to miss him so much. I cry a lot when I’m by myself; I end up punching the ground. I’m just so upset.”
April 17: the shooting
Brandon was in the hospital having epilepsy tests when Tyler died. Tyler and Pettit visited him in the hospital April 17, and Pettit recalled the day vividly.
“We spent the whole day together after seeing Brandon. We got caught in traffic on the way back, so we just sat and talked — didn’t even turn the radio on the whole ride home and just talked and talked,” Pettit said.
Tyler told his mom he thought the family should move because their neighborhood was “bad news.” Later that night, Pettit was awakened by two gunshots.
She remembers running through the house and into the hall, where she heard five more gunshots. Her daughter ran inside and said someone “shot at the house” and then chased after the assailants as they fled in a getaway car. She, too, was shot at during the pursuit.
Pettit panicked and screamed her son’s name. She and her daughter shined their cellphone lights through the darkness and then onto the motionless body of Tyler. Pettit collapsed next to him after screaming for anyone to call 9-1-1.
A former medical assistant, Pettit couldn’t think clearly when looking at her mortally wounded son. “Somebody stole my baby,” she said.
“There was just so much blood. I just held him; that’s all I could do. I could see he was gone. There was no movement to him. He wasn’t making any noise. There was nothing,” she said. “It was silence.”
A police officer showed up what felt like seconds later. He shined his light over the family and asked Pettit to leave to protect the homicide scene. The family sat curbside for hours, being interviewed separately while officers and firefighters combed the scene for clues.
Pettit said the neighbor and daughter said Tyler was chatting with a friend across the street when the shooting started. The neighbor ran one way, and Tyler the other. Pettit said she believes he was attempting to climb over the neighbor’s fence to escape when he was shot through the back of the neck. She is thankful he died quickly, but she still doesn’t understand why the assailants were there.
“Nobody’s going to go look for Tyler across the street at the neighbor’s house. You know? No one’s going to come look for him at 11:30 at night outside chopping it up with the neighbor,” she said.
Pettit maintains there were two attackers who approached the two men in the front yard, one with a gun, and a third person in the getaway car. She believes the attackers were not there to talk, but merely to shoot. Pettit said the car was a white Dodge Journey, and described the suspects as in their 20s and African-American.
“I’m furious that someone felt they could play judge and come and take a life of somebody,” she said. “The detective has tried everything in his power to make it seem like it had to have been somebody Tyler knew, but it’s not. Tyler didn’t have any associates like that.”
Brandon was still in the hospital when he heard the news. A friend from out of state called him unexpectedly. The family chose not to tell Brandon about Tyler until he left the hospital, but his friend asked if Tyler had really been murdered. Brandon called his sister, who confirmed Tyler was gone.
On what would have been Tyler’s 26th birthday, the funeral was just as much a celebration of his life as it was a mourning of his death. Slapfish shut down for the day so its staff could attend, and friends, family and coworkers gathered to share memories. The restaurant catered the wake for free.
There are still unanswered questions about his death.
“That very next Sunday (was) Easter Sunday. They, the killer, got to go be with his family and I had to go to church with all the rest of my family, but not my key person in my life, not my son,” Pettit said. “It’s a gaping, open wound that is not going to be healed until we have justice.”
Pettit had tough words for the attackers.
“If you want to be forgiven for what you’ve done, then you have to do the right thing at some point. And if you don’t do the right thing, there are three people involved in this shooting. Somebody’s going to open their mouth because nobody can keep a secret when it comes to something like that.”
Pettit and her children are planning to move soon, following Tyler’s last advice. They will leave the place they have called home for over eight years, but now, it doesn’t feel quite the same.
Centered in between piled moving boxes, Pettit leans forward in her recliner and points out the screened front door at the neighbor’s house. “That’s my view out the window. If you lean forward a little bit like this — this way — you can see the bullet holes in the wall,” she said. “He got shot right in that corner.”
Anyone with knowledge of the event is asked to call the Glendale Police Department at 623-930-3000 or Silent Witness at 480-WITNESS.