Mom loses 2 kids in 2 years to New Orleans gun violence
Hishaunda Riles surrounded her kids with love. She was determined to shield them from the violence that hit her.
Hishaunda Riles lives for her three children. Hasaan, the oldest, was followed by his brother Harrell, who was followed by their baby sister Ty’Shaunda.
“If I don't give Ty'Shaunda what she asks, she'll have a little temper tantrum,” Hishaunda Riles said with a loving smile.
Growing up as the only girl of the three kids, Ty'Shaunda may have been a little spoiled. She loved clothes and jewelry. But she grew into a beautiful and poised young woman, a Tik Tok princess who became an expert in fashion, hair and makeup. Her large pack of cousins and friends call her Tyddy.
“We love us some Tyddy, baby. Yes, Lord, her glamorous style, everything,” said her cousin Yannie Carter at Ty’Shaunda’s birthday party on Oct. 15.
Despite Riles' financial struggles working as a housekeeper and food server, the family, especially Ty’Shaunda, dreamed big: college, careers, a better life.
“Very respectable young lady. I always taught all of them, even at that age, yes ma'am, no sir,” Riles said.
A Family Wounded: 'I watched my mama go through it.'
Despite hardships, Riles surrounded her kids with love, just like she was raised. But she was determined to shield them from the hard edge of violence that hit her when she was in eighth grade.
“I watched my mama go through it,” Riles said. “My brother was 17 when he got killed. And I watch other family members. But I never thought in a million years that I would be standing in their shoes.”
But New Orleans is a “Wounded City,” as the name of WWL-TV’s special report on crime has shown in painful detail. The multi-generational streak of violence that haunts so many local families would eventually hit Riles.
It was 2020. Hasaan, then 22, was visiting the family's old neighborhood of the St. Thomas housing complex, now demolished and rebuilt as River Garden Apartments.
Riles had just spoken to him on Face-Time when she got another call.
“As soon as I hung up with it, I got a phone call right back,” Riles recalled. “And it was just saying, you need to get up here. Hasaan just was shot. I'm like, huh, I just got off the phone with him. What do you mean?”
She rushed to the scene.
“I was in shock,” she said. “When I got up there, he didn't make it.”
Like so many killings in New Orleans, Hasaan's fatal shooting remains unsolved. A Crimestoppers reward offer drew few tips.
Hasaan had his own previous troubles with the law, including jail time at 17 for being an accessory to an armed robbery and burglary. But he turned his life around, working, paying of his fines, getting a GED.
Hope for a brighter future: After tragedy, the family looked to brighter days
More than anything, Hasaan tried to teach his younger siblings about the dangers of the street. Especially Ty'Shaunda.
“Hassan was always very over-protective of her,” Riles said.
With Hasaan was no longer around to be the man of the house, Riles imposed her own mother-hen version of keeping her two younger kids safe. She was especially protective of her baby girl especially, even at the risk of turning her into a sheltered schoolgirl.
So when Ty'Shaunda started spending time with a serious boyfriend, Shawn May, as she was wrapping up her senior year at Frederick Douglas High School. Riles insisted that May live with in her house in the 7th Ward so her daughter wouldn’t keep spending so much with him where he lives on the West Bank.
Riles told May about losing her oldest son. She was up front about her expectations.
“I had already talked to him, that I had just lost a child. You know, you were supposed to protect her,” Riles recounted.
As Ty'Shaunda approached graduation from Frederick Douglass High School, she was flourishing. She got accepted into several colleges and set her sights on becoming a nurse.
“She could have picked Dillard. Loyola. Xavier. I mean, top schools,” Riles said.
Then, on Friday May 6, college selection day at school, the unthinkable.
'We were trying to protect her.': Ty'Shaunda shot in her room. Her boyfriend arrested.
“A detective called the school and said there was an accident with Ty'Shaunda,” Riles said. “I never even knew he had a gun in my house. Because if he would have, he wouldn't have even been allowed in my house.”
Ty'Shaunda was fatally shot in her room. Shawn May was arrested. He remains in jail, awaiting trial for manslaughter. Court records show that May also faces a charge of criminally negligent discharge of a firearm, something that Riles said she never knew.
May originally was booked with negligent homicide in Ty’Shaunda’s killing, telling police his gun went off accidentally. But when a grand jury heard more about the case, including the gun going off twice, then May allegedly fleeing the scene and throwing the weapon into a canal, the panel upgraded the charges to manslaughter and obstruction of justice.
May’s attorney, Gregory Carter, has not returned calls for comment.
“We were trying to protect her. From things like this,” Riles said.
Riles says Ty'Shaunda's death hits hardest when she sees other young women – laughing, singing, cutting up – just like her daughter.
“When I see other ladies and they're trying to slim up like her,” Riles said, choking back tears. “And I just look at them and it just reminds me so much of her. And sometimes I have to just walk away because I'm like, my daughter's supposed to still be here.”
The students and faculty at Douglass were hit hard by Ty'Shaunda's death. At the graduation ceremony nine days after she was killed, the principal called her name last. Riles went across the stage and accepted her diploma.
The Wal-Mart where Ty'Shaunda worked part-time also honored her. In the section of the store where she usually worked, customers were greeted with a small memorial that featured two photographs, a cluster of candles, and a pair of angel wings.
“She had a beautiful smile. She had a beautiful heart,” said Glennis Harris, one of her aunts.
'Mama misses you.': Hishaunda Riles still seeks justice
Ty'Shaunda was buried in her graduation gown.
“They're supposed to be burying me. I shouldn't be burying them,” Riles said.
That birthday party earlier this month also doubled as a memorial service. Family and friends gathered to celebrate Ty’Shaunda’s life and console themselves over losing her. They released balloons. One of her cousins, Frankquell Riles, sang a tribute that she sang through tears at her funeral in May.
Hishaunda Riles still lives for her kids. She attends every court hearing for Shawn May. She recently marched with other families who lost loved ones to violence. She has turned her home into a shrine for her two lost children.
She still talks to them, especially Ty'Shaunda.
“In the morning when I walk through, I call her beautiful, good morning beautiful. Mama misses you. I'm thinking about you. And I also say we're going to get justice.”
► Get breaking news from your neighborhood delivered directly to you by downloading the new FREE WWL-TV News app now in the IOS App Store or Google Play.