Family of murdered Muskegon Heights teen keeping his memory alive

MUSKEGON HEIGHTS, Mich.–18 year old Derek Peterson had just gotten his drivers license when he was found sitting in the front seat of his mother’s car with a gun shot wound to his head.

The fatal shooting cut short what, the police chief, his mother, and friends, say was a life full of potential.

“My son is gifted in the hands, he started drawing at 7 years old. He graduated from high school and wanted to become a graphic engineer,” says Sharon Tyler, Derek’s mother.

But he would never get that chance. On June 5th Sharon Tyler says she was waiting for her son, Derek Peterson, to pick her up for work, but he never came.

The Muskegon Heights police found his body sitting in the front seat of Sharon’s car. He had a gun shot wound to the head.

“The community has a cloud. The community has been like this and I don’t know what it is. That’s my question,” says Tyler.

Tyler says she still has a lot of questions. She says her son was a gifted artist and had a lot of potential, others remember him as a loyal friend.

“When it comes to him, on the loyalty and how good of a friend he was it was like we grew up with him, we was teaching each other how to become a man. Every day I think about it,” says his friend Dominque Johnson.

The Muskegon Heights police chief says he was a good kid but was caught up in a bad situation.

“This is one of the times I can say that an innocent person hung out with the wrong people and got themselves injured or killed,” says Muskegon Heights Chief of Police, Dr. Joesph E. Thomas, Jr.

The police say the suspect in Derek’s death, Rodney Neal, was after drugs that were stolen.

Something that continues to shock those closest to Derek.

“When I got the news I was like: we’re an after school program, what did I do wrong?”  says Derek’s youth pastor Aaron Pulsifer, “He set an example, he was well known do I know anything bad about Derek no he’s a teenager. He does things that teenager does,”

Now gone the family is hoping is life can continue to set an example. Peterson’s family has created a scholarship in his honor. If you’d like to learn more about that and how you can help this family continue to heal stop by this link.

Muskegon police is looking for the accomplice in Peterson’s murder, if you do know anything you are asked to contact muskegon height police or silent observer.