A high school senior targeted by death threats spoke to his fellow graduates through a video hookup Friday, drawing a loud cheer when he appeared on a large screen set up on the football field.
Tyrone Lewis, 18, was excluded from the ceremony at Harry S. Truman High School because of the threats, which police said stem from his sister's alleged involvement in a fatal shooting.
A star athlete and the class president, Lewis gave his speech via video from a municipal building a few miles away from the ceremony. A framed picture of Lewis was placed on an empty chair among the graduates.
‘Don’t ever give up’
Lewis did not mention the circumstances during his brief speech, which was upbeat and optimistic. He did, however, ask fellow graduates to remember his “friend and spiritual brother” Ahman Fralin, who was shot and paralyzed while driving with Lewis in April.
“This is the big day we have all been waiting for,” Lewis told his classmates. “We have survived bomb threats and police dogs patrolling the hallways. What really makes us a great school is the people in it. Live your lives in a positive way.”
He closed by telling his fellow graduates, “If times seem tough, don’t ever give up.”
When Lewis was done, the crowd of about 4,000 cheered and the ceremony continued.
Ousted for safety
Lewis received his diploma before other graduates from Bristol Mayor Sam Fenton.
Lewis’ sister, Rachael Lewis, testified in January against a man who, police said, belongs to a gang in nearby Trenton, N.J., and who is charged with murder. She was also charged in the shooting.
Police said the threats against Tyrone Lewis had added credibility because he was shot at while driving in Bristol Township in April. Lewis escaped injury, but Fralin was wounded. The case remains unsolved, and police aren’t sure whether Lewis was a target or it was a random crime.
Either way, police and school district officials said that for Lewis’ own safety — and the safety of others — he could not attend graduation.