“If I think about Tyler’s smile or I think about the things he used to tell me, it cheers me up a little bit, but I still want to see him and touch him and that’s hard,” said Roshika Oliver about her 14-year-old son, Tyler Benjamin.
Someone shot and killed Benjamin on Oct. 5.
Benjamin and another male were sitting on the front porch of their home on Tee Vee Road in Santee when gunfire erupted from a nearby wooded area.
Benjamin was shot.
He later died at the Regional Medical Center in Orangeburg.
“Some days I barely even smile. Some days I think about his smile. Some days I break down,” Oliver said.
Benjamin’s killer hasn’t been caught yet.
Oliver said Orangeburg County Sheriff’s Office investigators are “doing a great job.”
“Justice is going to be served,” she said.
In the meantime, she’s holding close the memories of her dirt bike-riding and four-wheeling son who talked about becoming a truck driver one day.
“For some reason, Tyler said he always would work at IGA in Santee,” she said, followed by a brief laugh.
“But that was the thing I’d do when they’d get off the bus. I’d take them to IGA to get snacks and different little things they wanted,” she said.
“Everybody at IGA in Santee knows them kids. And they got to the point they started helping bagging up groceries,” she said.
“Everybody knew Tyler. Everybody loved Tyler. He was like an old soul,” she said. “He would pull everybody’s heart.”
She described her slain son as a motivator.
“Some days I didn’t want to do things and he’s like, ‘Come on, Ma. Come on, Ma,' " she said. “He was my pusher.”
“He wasn’t laid back. If I didn’t feel like doing it, Tyler would make me do it,” she said, noting his smile alone would give her the boost she needed.
Benjamin was an eighth-grader at Holly Hill-Roberts Middle School.
He loved school, Oliver said. He looked forward to completing his virtual lessons.
“He was a lovable person. He was respectful. He was blunt because he would tell you whatever was on his mind. Whatever he was feeling, he’d let you know. I raised him like that,” Oliver said.
“He was an old soul. He wasn’t a normal 14-year-old boy. He knew how to do things grown men didn’t know how to do -- change oil, change tires, check the oil, take out the trash, fold clothes, wash dishes. It wasn’t nothing Tyler didn’t know how to do,” she said.
He knew how to drive. Oliver taught him when he was 10 how to drive her manual-shift vehicle.
He loved dogs and breeding them.
He also wanted to be a professional dog handler and breeder one day, she said.
“He loved to eat,” she said with a laugh.
His favorite foods were fries and pork chops.
“He would cook it his self,” she said.
“He was just a different kind of child.”
He loved going to church.
“Let me tell you: Sometimes I feel like I don’t feel like myself. I feel empty. When I walk in my house, it’s quiet. My girls are 9 and 11. My 11-year-old, she understands, but she doesn’t really understand. I still have to be strong for them. It’s hard because we don’t have no answers to why this happened,” she said.
Oliver said the gun violence needs to stop.
“We just want to find out who killed Tyler Benjamin,” she said.
“As a community, we must stop the violence,” she added.
“He was an amazing son, he was an amazing child, he was a spotlight,” Oliver said.
Investigators are following each lead they receive in the case, she said.
If anyone has information about the case, they are asked to call the Orangeburg County Sheriff’s Office at 803-534-3550 or Crimestoppers at 1-888-CRIME-SC. Callers don’t have to give their names.
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