A teenager who was a fleeting sensation on YouTube earlier this year after he was videotaped being spanked by his uncle for boasting about gang ties on his Facebook page was found shot to death last week, just steps away from his Terrytown neighborhood home.
According to the New Orleans Times-Picayune, the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office said Michael Taylor, 16, was found shot to death shortly after 8:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 7 when deputies responded to a report of gunshots in the area.
Taylor had been shot multiple times.
Sgt. Larry Dyess, JPSO spokesman, told the Times-Picayune that authorities had no suspect or motive in the incident.
Taylor’s mother, Kimberly Ward, told the newspaper that she kept strict tabs on her son, even making him stay on the sidewalk in eyesight of their home when he went outside. The night of the shooting, she said, Taylor received a text message from a friend at about 8 p.m. and went outside to chat.
“She said she called him back inside a few minutes later to find out what was going on, and he told her he was just talking and went back outside. A few minutes later, her daughter received a text message saying that Taylor had been shot, and then another saying he was dead,” the newspaper reported.
“Ward said she rushed from the house, driving around the neighborhood looking for her son, but didn’t find him until she was coming back to her apartment complex. That’s when she saw his body on the cold sidewalk, clad in the red sweatshirt she’d noticed when he left the house.
“I came home and saw my son on the ground,” Ward said.
In addition to his mother and sister, Taylor is survived by a brother, grandparents and a host of relatives and friends. His funeral is scheduled for this morning.
In the YouTube video, posted in January, Taylor’s uncle ordered him to disavow any ties to gangs, announced that the family “don’t come from that sh–,” and then proceeded to take off his belt and spank Taylor in full view of the laptop camera.
Rappers Lil Wayne and Birdman spoofed the video, as did another video site called StuntKidzTV.
The original video sparked tons of reaction, from people who applauded the uncle’s actions, calling it an overdue return to old-school parenting and discipline, to those who speculated the public flogging might drive the teenager deeper into a gang’s circle because the youth had been humiliated.
“I am not surprised to hear that this young man’s life has ended violently. When I saw the video, I kept thinking that by beating this youth, the uncle was setting him up for some kind of tragedy, either prison or an early grave,” said Stacey Patton, who in April launched the web site SparetheKids.com to offer black parents alternatives to corporal punishment and the tools to help foster the healthy development of children.
“I don’t understand why more people don’t make the connection between how children are dealt with at home and the larger societal impact,” Patton said. “Studies show that maltreated youth make up a disproportionate number of youth involved in school and gang violence. Violent parental discipline increases the risk that a child will act violently later in life. The use of violent discipline teaches children that violence is an appropriate means of shaping behavior and solving problems. Physically disciplining a child has no positive impact for the child, that child’s relationship with the parents, or the larger community.”
Ward told the Times-Picayune that her son was mild-mannered, but had begun hanging out with tough guys, telling her that he did it for protection to avoid problems with other students.
She cited a couple of incidents that she said might have led someone to come after her son, but in each case, Ward maintained her son had been the victim of a misunderstanding or was targeted because of his connection to others who may have instigated a dispute.
She also said Taylor recently took a photo with a friend that was posted on Facebook, that the friend had been involved in an ongoing dispute with an Algiers group and that someone recently threatened Taylor when she took him to the mall recently.
Ward told the newspaper she believed her son’s friends, not his actions, led to his death.
“He was guilty by association,” she said.