Tyler Wingate was an old soul.
He loved his pit bull dog, Odin, and took his dog to every county and city park. He loved to rap as much as he loved music. He loved nature and was proud of the 2011 Buick Regal that he bought on his own.
He also loved Detroit, his stepmother Sharlee Wingate told the Free Press on Wednesday, even though he grew up in its suburbs — where he was a well-known and well-liked student, athlete and 2013 graduate of Berkley High School.
“He had faith in the city of Detroit,” said Sharlee Wingate, who now lives in Royal Oak.
Early Monday, the 24-year-old was beaten to death by another motorist after a car crash on Detroit’s west side. Detroit police identified Lawrence James Davis, 23, of Detroit, as a suspect in the fatal attack in the 13500 block of Livernois Avenue, near Davison.
Police said Davis is believed to be the man who — caught on surveillance video at a gas station — got out of his car after the crash, approached Wingate and sucker-punched him in the head, dropping him to the ground. Police say he then struck and kicked Wingate multiple times before fleeing on foot with three other men.
Wingate died of blunt force trauma to his head and neck, said Charli Rose, spokeswoman for the Wayne County Medical Examiner’s Office.
Davis was still on the run Wednesday. He doesn’t have a driver’s license but had a lengthy driving record with suspensions and incidents dating to 2014, according to the Michigan Secretary of State. He had no vehicle registered to his name, according to the agency.
Wingate’s brother, Jason, talked about Wingate and spoke directly to Davis during a Wednesday night press conference in front of Berkley High School.
“We know you are out there, and we know that you are watching. And I want you to see the damage that you have done not only to my family, but to the community itself,” he said, adding that he hopes Davis will turn himself in and the Wingate family can receive the justice it deserves.
Sharlee Wingate said Tyler lived with two friends in the Boston Edison district and bought a house about five blocks from where he was beaten that he planned to rehab with two others.
She said family members were hesitant of him moving to Detroit, and told him to be careful, but “everyone knew who he was. He spoke with everybody.” She said he lived in the city about a year and a half and the family spent Christmas at his house.
“He was a great guy,” she said. “He’s a lover, not a fighter.”
Wingate’s brother, Jason, echoed similar sentiments Wednesday night as he spoke with his parents and two siblings standing by his side. He urged people to not remember Wingate’s death, but to remember the “fun, happy, outgoing and extremely intelligent man.”
“Tyler wouldn’t want us to be sad,” his brother said, adding that Tyler once told him that if one of them were to die, “Don’t mourn my death, but celebrate my life.”
As the Wingate family prepared for his funeral this week, residents and business owners in the small, tight-knit community of Berkley wrapped white ribbons around trees, light poles and street signs at their homes and in the business districts along Coolidge and 12 Mile.
Diane Brus of Berkley, whose son played sports with Tyler Wingate, was putting up white ribbons around town Wednesday afternoon. She said the ribbons are in memory of Wingate and in support of his family, and for the city and the greater community.