by Dave Waddell
posted July 21
The year was 1976 and Paula Staben from Santa Paula was a senior child development major at Chico State. She lived off campus at Gordon Hall, an “all-girls dormitory.” As that year’s activities director for Alpha Chi, Paula frequented the sorority’s distinctive yellow house at the corner of Fourth and Orient streets. There, she coordinated events such as theme dinners and movie nights.
Paula completed her bachelor’s degree, returned to Ventura County, and married Scott Rushing, a real estate broker and property manager. She became mom to Tyler and, a couple of years later, to Hillary. She directed a preschool. She launched a 17-year public school teaching career after her children went off to school.
Then, on July 23, 2017, Paula Rushing’s life was upended when Tyler Rushing died far from his Ventura home, on the bloody floor of a title company at Sixth and Main streets in the city where Paula had lived and studied. Her son Tyler had been shot at nearly point-blank range by a Chico police sergeant.
Tyler’s death occurred a mere five blocks from that yellow house where she had socialized with her sorority sisters some 40 years before.
The Rushings and other loved ones of people killed by law enforcement in Butte County during the last decade will gather Saturday, July 23, at a Chico church for a public remembrance.
Saturday’s Memorial for the Fallen, to be held on the fifth anniversary of the shooting of 34-year-old Tyler Rushing, will take place from 12:30 to 4 p.m. at Chico’s Trinity Methodist Church, 285 E. Fifth St. The event has been organized by Rushing’s parents. Water but no food will be provided to attendees, who are expected to wear to masks. Audio and video recordings are welcome.
In addition to the Rushings, who are in a costly legal fight with the City of Chico, among those expected to speak Saturday will be family members and friends of:
—Breanne Sharpe, 19, shot in the back of the head and killed by a Chico police sergeant in 2013 while fleeing in a stolen auto.
—Andrew Thomas, 26, shot in 2015 by a Paradise police officer while unarmed and trying to climb out of a vehicle after a DUI crash.
—Eddie Gabriel “Gabe” Sanchez, a 34-year-old armed robbery suspect, shot by a Chico police detective while fleeing in 2015.
—Desmond Phillips, a 25-year-old Black man in mental crisis whose body was riddled with Chico police bullets in 2017.
—Myra Micalizio, 56, who was in mental crisis and fleeing when shot in the back numerous times in 2018 by a Butte County sheriff’s deputy.
—Stephen Vest, 30, who, in 2020, was shot numerous times while walking toward a Chico police officer with a knife.
Paula Rushing, who will talk about her son at the memorial, was too traumatized by his killing to return to the classroom, retired early, and has never taught another day.
“I didn’t. I couldn’t. I couldn’t go back to be with kids. Too many memories of Tyler’s childhood. It was tough,” she said.
On Saturday, she plans to talk about his personality, how he got along with people, how he treated others. A favorite expression of Tyler’s that explained his outlook on life was “peace, love and positivity.”
“Those were his words that he would write or say when greeting someone or saying goodbye. More of a parting phrase than anything,” she said.
Among those expected to attend Saturday’s memorial will be 17-year-old Gabriel Sanchez of Elk Grove, the son of Gabe Sanchez. Gabriel Sanchez was 10 when his father was shot to death by Chico police officer Mark Bass.
Dave Waddell is writing a book about law enforcement killings in Butte County.