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On Thursday, June 21, 2001, Tyrone Gilbert, 28, of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, was shot to death after rapping on a neighborhood porch window to seek safety.
Inside the 412 15th St. SE home, an 18-year-old girl was babysitting her 11-year-old brother and his 11-year-old friend. The teen had been instructed not to open the door for any reason, and when someone frantically rapped at 1:35 a.m., she feared for both her safety and that of the two young boys entrusted to her care.
Gilbert was about four blocks away from his own house.
A post in an AETV Cold Case Files community forum alleges the Gangster Disciples gang murdered Gilbert. The Disciples allegedly were friends of Jamar Magett, 19, a Chicagoan with gang affiliations who was fatally shot in the forehead and chest while standing in the 1400 block of Fifth Avenue SE in Cedar Rapids on May 10, 1999. Police charged Tyrone Gilbert’s younger brother, Paul Gilbert, 18, with Magett’s murder, but in September 1999 a Linn County jury acquitted the younger Gilbert in the slaying.
In a June 22, 2001 Cedar Rapids Gazette article, a woman who refused to give her name to the newspaper said Gilbert had stopped at her home in the 1400 block of Fifth Avenue SE the Wednesday before the shooting and told her he was afraid to go home because of “problems” with men who’d recently moved to the neighborhood from Chicago.
The Gazette also quoted Wellington Heights Neighborhood Association President Russ Oviatt as saying, “There’s a lot of worried neighbors, a lot of concern there may be some payback.”
The night of Gilbert’s shooting, the 18-year-old babysitter, Aymanda Weber, said she’d been sitting on the living room sofa at about 1:35 a.m. when she heard rapid footsteps outside, followed by what sounded like an argument. There was a shot, she said, followed by a shout and then two or three more shots.
The teen said she heard sounds of groaning and then someone knocked on the home’s window. She pulled back the curtains just in time to see Gilbert collapse. The shots being fired outside the home terrified her, and the sister of one of the 11-year-olds said her brother saw Gilbert die and that it haunts him even today.
Police found Gilbert — dressed in a gray shirt and blue basketball-style shorts — dead on the home’s porch with two gunshot wounds to his abdomen.
While witness descriptions varied, most said they’d seen a black man wearing a sleeveless white shirt and baggy black pants running from the scene.
Two witnesses said they’d heard a man saying “Hold on, hold on,” followed by another voice cursing just before the gunshots.
Witnesses also told police they’d seen three men running from the murder scene after shots were fired, including the man in the baggy pants who entered a nearby residence and then left again a short time later wearing a different set of clothing.
In addition to his younger brother Paul’s legal entanglements, Tyrone Gilbert also had his own share of encounters with the criminal court system. The Cedar Rapids Gazette reported a record that included drug and assault charges dating back to 1990, and single counts of theft and burglary.
His mother Linda, however, chose to remember the good times and focus on the ways in which her son was trying to get his life turned around.
He’d been born prematurely, she told the Gazette, but loved to eat, loved to work out and loved his job at Buffalo Wild Wings. And despite his big size, she said, he was “just like a teddy bear.”
He’d attended the Cedar Rapids schools before getting mixed up with a “bad crowd” in the Wellington Heights neighborhood, Mrs. Gilbert said, but had gone on to finish his GED and had attended one year of college at Kirkwood Community College. He also was a member of the New Testament Deliverance Church and often attended services there with her.
Prior to his murder, he’d been in the process of putting together a new family grill for the Fourth of July. It still lay partly assembled outside the family’s home as they prepared for his upcoming funeral.
A week after Gilbert’s murder, Cedar Rapids Police Lt. Bernie Walther announced that officers had executed a search warrant on a 49-year-old man seen running from the murder scene, and that in addition to collecting a brown coat, white T-shirt, blue sweat pants and sport shoes, they also had taken hair samples and a cheek swab — normally collected for DNA testing purposes. Police photographed the suspect and also tested his hands for gunpowder residue.
The day before Gilbert’s funeral, more than 250 people — spilling out into the foyer — packed the Murdoch-Linwood Funeral Home to pay their respects to Gilbert. As mourners passed by his casket, they tucked gifts in around him: roses, photos, teddy bears, a small ceramic angel.
“The city has maintained we have no problem,” Pastor Aaron Doolin of Mount Zion Missionary Baptist Church told the congregation. “We have a problem. It’s sin.”
During the funeral services on Wednesday, June 27, Pastor Craig Brown of the New Testament Deliverance Church told Gilbert’s friends to “cover [Gilbert’s family members] with the blood of Jesus” and to “give them comfort and peace,” as they all stretched out arms towards Gilbert’s family.
“Do not take revenge,” Brown told them. “Do not try to get even. Love one another. Pray for one another. Encourage one another.”
A young boy sang “Amazing Grace” while nearby easels displayed photos of Gilbert with his siblings and friends, playing ball in a Jane Boyd league and his GED certificate.
That same day, the Gazette quoted police as saying there were no known links between Gilbert’s murder and the acquittal of his younger brother Paul in Jamar Magett’s shooting death.
Both Gilbert’s and Magett’s cases remain unsolved, as does that of Willie Junior Brocks, 49, who was shot and killed November 27, 1999, on the same block where Gilbert was slain.
Tyrone Gilbert was born November 22, 1972.
He attended Cedar Rapids schools through middle school and later earned his GED. He attended one year at Kirkwood Community College, and loved to play football.
Memorial services were held at 2 p.m. on June 27, 2001 at the Murdoch-Linwood Funeral Home, with burial following in Linwood Cemetery.
Survivors included his parents and four younger siblings.
The Cedar Rapids Police Department currently has two Cold Case Unit volunteer investigators who work exclusively on unsolved homicides. These investigators work closely with other investigators from both the Cedar Rapids Police Department and other law enforcement agencies.
The current investigator assigned to the Cold Case Unit is J.D. Smith, a retired Agent for the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation.
If you have any information about Tyrone Gilbert’s unsolved murder please call the Cold Case Unit at (319) 286-5919 or email Investigator J.D. Smith.
Linn County Crime Stoppers accepts anonymous tips, and rewards for information may be available. Crime Stoppers may be reached at 1-800-CS-CRIME (319) 272-7463.