DOWNTOWN ST. LOUIS ( KTVI) - According to police, 47-year-old Tyrone Thompson was shot and killed in a robbery almost two years ago. Thompson was said to be waiting in his SUV to pick up a friend when two teenagers walked up to the car. One of the teens pulled out a gun, and opened fire. Thompson exchanged fire and one of the suspects, 18-year-old Jakeem Hicks, was shot and killed. A second suspect was wounded. Thompson also died.
Thompson worked as a consumer fraud investigator for the state attorney general’s office. Thompson was also a former University City police officer, and former chief of police in Pagedale, Missouri.
His family says the police chief was shot and killed by the kind of teenage boys he would have tried to mentor if he had met them.
Over the years the Thompson family has donated approximately a half-million dollars in scholarships to deserving students. The Kwame Foundation will continue to help keep the memory of their loved one alive by continuing to give back to the community.
“He helped mentor young kids about these sort of acts of violence," said Tyrone's brother Tony Thompson, founder of Kwame Building Group. "Attempted robbery? If they needed something, all they had to do was ask him. He would have given it to them."
The Thompson family says Tyrone’s death prompted them to start the Tyrone Thompson Institute for Nonviolence. Also since 2003, the Kwame Foundation has hosted an annual golf tournament to raise funds for education.
The Tyrone Thompson Institute for Nonviolence (TTIN) offers a new approach to school suspensions, which often lead to poor academic performance, lost school funding and an increase in juvenile delinquency and dropouts.
Through the program, St. Louis Community College students tutor and mentor suspended students in the St. Louis Public School District, through eighth grade. The Kwame Foundation provides the vision, funding, adult mentors and hope. The St. Louis School District set aside tutoring space and provides support. St. Louis Community College houses the program at their William J. Harrison Education Center in north St. Louis City and helps train the college students.
Everyone wins. Suspended students get one-on-one attention in their own school settings. College students learn about community service, tutoring and mentoring. Parents build parenting skills at required one-day workshops. And the local schools retain state funding.
The Kwame Foundation now endows approximately $150,000 a year in scholarships and grants at universities that improve educational opportunities for minorities. The family will continue to encourage youth in the St. Louis area to put down the guns and pick up the books.
"I think he would be proud. He knows we have good intentions," said Sonja Branscomb-Thompson, Tyrone’s sister. "Unfortunately, it was that incident that led to do this. But you know, if we could reach some kids and get them off the street and help them, it was worth it."
The Thompson family says Tyrone devoted his life to helping young people, especially troubled youth, and that’s why the family wants to make sure they provide scholarships for students, so they can be successful in life and continue to live out Tyrone’s legacy.
“Ty put his life on the line for the things in which he believed, in terms of helping in a non-violent process. What cost him his life is trying to save others. So we have to try and carry his legacy on so that others can be saved,” said Tyrone’s mother Betty Thompson.
This summer, the Kwame Foundation and the Thompson family will take a group of St. Louis eighth grade students to African to set up a community library. For more information about the Kwame Foundation and the Non-Violent Institute, call (314) 862-5344.