Tehsia Green, a single mother of seven living day-to-day in Miami’s inner city, doesn’t have much to give except pieces of her heart.
She did not hesitate to offer a place in her home to a teenager who was her son’s friend after the boy’s father died and his mother was unable to care for him.
But Green’s act of selflessness wrought devastation. Soon after she welcomed the young man into her family, her eldest daughter was killed by bullets meant for him.
Green’s daughter Precious was the innocent victim in a drive-by shooting that remains unsolved.
Green will spend her first Christmas in 24 years without Precious.
Yet Green harbors no bitterness toward Jordan Hernandez, the kid to whom she gave sanctuary, even though she is now desperate to move to a place where she can feel safe.
“My mother raised me to help others, and on her deathbed she told me, ‘Never turn your back on someone in need,’” Green said. “I fed him, bought his school uniform and his shoes, got him a bunk bed. I don’t regret it. I know he loved Precious like a sister. I think he will grow up to be a better person because of what happened.
“But I still cry every day because I miss my baby so much. I know we are not supposed to question God, but why her? Why such a good child?”
Precious, manager of a Checker’s restaurant in northwest Miami, came home from work Aug. 13, accompanied by two coworkers. They were talking in the front yard when a car rolled around the corner. It seemed suspicious, and when they saw the barrel of a gun, everyone ran in different directions. Precious was trying to duck inside the front door when she was shot nine times. The fatal bullet hit her in the head.
Her brother, Antwan, ran to the threshold and knelt beside his sister. She died in his arms.
“They called an ambulance, but it was too late,” Green said. “By the time I got there they were putting a sheet over her body. What hurts so bad is the way she died. They shot her down like a dog.”
Ten days earlier Green’s house had been sprayed by shots at 3 a.m. When police questioned the family about who might be attacking them, Hernandez feigned ignorance. But it turns out he had been involved in a robbery attempt. Police believe Hernandez was the target in the two shooting incidents and a third one the day after Precious’ funeral in which Antwan was shot in the back while riding his bike.
“I could have lost my son, too,” Green said, showing a cellphone photo of Antwan’s wound. “I see Antwan with a hole in his back and blood everywhere. Is he dead? I was ready to collapse. I was not in my right mind with panic.”
Antwan, 17, recovered, and Hernandez, 17, confessed that the shooters were looking for revenge. During a court hearing on Hernandez’s guardianship status, Green begged that he be sent out of town to a secure home. If not, he would likely be killed in her neighborhood.
“My daughter was dead, my son was shot, but I was still responsible for Jordan and didn’t want him to be in danger,” Green said. “The judge came down from the bench and hugged me. He said, ‘I’m sorry for your loss, and I want to salute you in front of this courtroom. If we had more people like you the world would be a kinder place.’”
Hernandez, who broke down and apologized to Green, was sent to foster care in Orlando where he can start anew. Green feels trapped.
“I have no justice for my daughter,” she said. “Her killers are still free on the streets.”
Green rents a small apartment in Brownsville. She lives in fear that the shooters will return. The floor of the main room is covered by two mattresses, but she’s afraid to have her children sleep there. When they get home from school, she orders them to stay in the back bedroom.
“They can’t hang around or play outside,” she said. “When they go to the store next door, I’m watching them the whole way, watching the cars. I’m afraid to walk out the door. I don’t go to sleep until everyone else is sleeping.”
Green is comforted and saddened by memories of Precious, whose graduation picture hangs on the wall. Precious played the tuba in the Miami Northwestern High School marching band. She liked to cook and sew. Her dream was to become a judge.
Precious, who was a week away from a promotion at her job, was the main source of income for her family. She also brought food home from Checker’s. Green, 40, used to be a laundry worker at a Hilton hotel and Goodwill Industries, but she’s currently unemployed, and hindered by arthritis in her legs. She relies on food stamps and funds for her two young learning-disabled children.
“Precious was my backbone,” Green said. “She was a good girl. She was so determined. She was going to have a better life than me.”
Green was nominated for the Miami Herald’s Wish Book by Denise Brown of the Restore Joy and Trust foundation, which helps the grieving and traumatized families of murdered children.
“Ms. Green showed incredible compassion in raising someone else’s child as her own despite all the issues she has to contend with, and that child was the reason her daughter was murdered, but she continued to love him,” said Brown, who founded RJT after her son Roman Bradley and his best friend JeQuevin Myles were killed in a 2012 drive-by shooting.
Now Green needs help. She needs furniture; beds, a dining room table and chairs; a desk; a sofa. She could use a reliable car so she can go back to school and get back to work. She wants to move her family to a home where they can feel safe and hopeful about the future, but can’t afford the deposits that would be required.
“We’re scared,” she said. “I have endured the worst kind of pain. Moving out of here is the only way I will have peace of mind.”