Aftermath of York City shooting has devastated family

Liz Evans Scolforo
York Dispatch
  • Doctors said Shyhiem McDowell wouldn't survive his gunshot wound to the head. Although disabled, he was able to return home after five months of hospitalization.

Shelaneia Sullivan struggles with fear and guilt every day — fear that the people responsible for her son's shooting will come back to "finish the job" and guilt that she was unable to shield him from violence.

And because the bullet that pierced Shyhiem McDowell's head inflicted so much damage, Sullivan also worries about who will care for her son after she dies.

Shyhiem McDowell

These are issues few parents are forced to grapple with. But for Sullivan, they're just a small part of her life in the wake of Shyhiem's shooting.

Mostly, she focuses on caring for Shyhiem, whose injury prevents him from ever living independently.

But as Sullivan made clear, her challenges pale in comparison to her son's.

"My son can never get back what he lost," she told The York Dispatch.

Shyhiem, now 20, has undergone three brain surgeries. He has limited vision and can barely speak, his mother said.

Edward McDowell and Shelaneia Sullivan, the parents of shooting victim Shyhiem McDowell, convinced a York County judge on Nov. 9, 2017, to refuse a plea agreement for Hydiea Banks, accused of shooting and trying to kill Shyhiem.
(Liz Evans Scolforo photo)

He can also barely walk, suffers from seizures and is partially paralyzed on his right side.

Sullivan fought back tears on Thursday, Nov. 9, as she spoke in York County Court to Common Pleas Judge Craig T. Trebilcock. She asked him to refuse a proposed plea agreement for Hydiea Banks, who was 16 when she allegedly shot Shyhiem in the head.

After listening to Sullivan and to Shyhiem's father, Edward McDowell, the judge refused to approve Banks' proposed deal. (See related article.)

More:York shooting victim's parents convince judge to nix plea deal

'He has no life': "My son is never going to be the same," she told Trebilcock. "He has no life — he just sits every day and watches TV."

He can't do anything without the assistance of a nurse or family member, Sullivan said.

"We live with this every day," she said. "My son did nothing to deserve this."

He does know his family members, his mother said, although there are some people he knew before the shooting that he simply no longer remembers.

Shyhiem McDowell

After Shyhiem was shot, doctors told the family he wouldn't survive, Sullivan said. Later, they said he would remain in a vegetative state.

Sullivan sat at her son's hospital bedside for five months, after which she was able to bring him home.

She said she's grateful he survived.

Still 'petrified': Sullivan and McDowell believe Banks and those close to her were paid to kill Shyhiem by the loved ones of a 2015 homicide victim whose case was never solved.

"I'm so petrified when I take him outside," she said, in case those people decide to "finish what they started."

Shyhiem McDowell

She said those involved told her before Shyhiem's shooting to take him to the York City detective bureau to turn himself in — or else. Frightened, she complied, she said.

Detectives let Shyhiem go home because, Sullivan said, he had nothing to do with the homicide.

"And after we cleared my son's name, they still did this," Sullivan said of the shooting.

The frustrated mother had a hard time in court Thursday watching Banks smile and smirk through her hearing. 

"She shows no remorse," Sullivan said.

— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.