Eighteen-year-old Tyler Flach, of Lido Beach, was held without bail on Thursday after he pleaded not guilty in the stabbing death of Khaseen Morris at his arraignment at First District Court in Hempstead.
Flach was charged with second-degree murder after he allegedly killed Morris on Monday outside a strip mall in Oceanside during a brawl involving dozens of teens from Oceanside, Freeport and Long Beach, according to Nassau County police. He is facing 25 years to life if convicted.
Morris died after he was stabbed multiple times and video of the incident, taken by bystanders who police said did not intervene, went viral and was picked up by news outlets around the world.
According to Lt. Stephen Fitzpatrick, commanding officer of the NCPD's Homicide Squad, the dispute between Flach and Morris was over a girl who had recently broken up with one of Flach's friends two weeks prior to the altercation.
Fitzpatrick said that Morris and the girl were friends and that the girl’s ex-boyfriend, who was not identified, may have been jealous. Fitzpatrick added that Flach and his friends went to the strip mall to fight Morris. Flach, he said, took it to the “next level” and stabbed him.
“Tyler was a threat that we wanted to get sooner than later and once we had probable cause we arrested him,” Fitzpatrick said.
Fitzpatrick added that police were searching for as many as seven other people involved in the incident, and sources told the Herald that some of the other teens involved in the attack are from Long Beach.
However, Fitzpatrick said that they are certain Flach was the only person who committed the stabbing.
Police said they believe there are more videos of the melee and are working to obtain them. NCPD officials added they are currently analyzing evidence to determine the murder weapon. Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas said the investigation could only move on if people come forward with more information. She added that police would not tolerate “anyone who threatens others who may have information on the case.”
“We need the information in order to keep our communities safe,” Singas told reporters at a news conference Thursday. "We can't sit idly by as 16-year-olds expire and bleed out on our streets here in Nassau County. So please, give us the information ... to ensure that justice is done for Khaseen and his family."
Flach, a student at Nassau Community College, had two prior arrests that included criminal possession of a controlled substance and third-degree assault, Nassau County Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder said.
Flach’s attorney, Edward Sapone, said that his client is innocent, but asked the judge to place his client in protective custody, citing what he said were social media posts linking the group of Morris’ friends to the Bloods Street gang, according to Newsday and News 12. He told Judge Gary M. Carlton that Flach has “very strong” ties to the community, according to Newsday.
“Tyler strongly maintains his innocence and took the responsible step of self-surrendering to eventually clear his name," Sapone said in a statement to the Herald. "At the appropriate time, we will release vital information about what happened that’s not captured on video and that completely changes this case. Until then, we ask the community to reserve on judgment and pray for those who are suffering."
Morris’s sister, Keyanna, strongly disputed Sapone’s claims of any gang activity.
“I’m disgusted that this man is trying to tarnish my brother’s name,” she said. “Everyone who knows my brother knows that he wasn’t affiliated with any gangs of any sort. Khaseen was against violence — He hated gang violence and he refused to be apart of any of that. He comes from a good family with good family values. It hurts that it has to be like this. Khaseen’s hair was orange and black, but he was planning to dye it purple and black. It was a way he expressed himself, but not because he affiliated with any gang. He was a peaceful and loving person.”
Flach, an aspiring rapper, was known for getting into his share of trouble around town, multiple sources told the Herald.
A former student at the Nike Alternative High School in Lido Beach, those familiar with the teen said he hung out with a younger group of friends and that Long Beach and Nassau police had responded to a number of disputes and incidents involving Flach.
Flach was in a rap video that was posted on YouTube last month under the name BabyTy called “When the Trap Call,” which was shot in parts of the North Park area, near the Long Beach MLK Center and on Pine Street. It features Flach performing backed by a large group of teens. Police, however, said that Flach lives on Greenway Road in Lido.
Photos of Flach were shared on Twitter and other social media platforms prior to his arrest by those claiming to identify him in the attack on Morris.
Ryder said that additional security is in place at the Oceanside, Long Beach and Freeport schools to deal with any threat made to the schools or students.
“Maintaining school safety is of utmost importance,” Ryder said. “Our cops are out at all of these schools. No one is going to threaten anyone without this district attorney stepping in and prosecuting them.”
Long Beach Schools Superintendent Dr. Jennifer Gallagher posted a letter on the district’s website Thursday updating parents, students and faculty.
“I do not know the exact details of what happened on Monday night; the police are continuing their investigation,” she wrote. “What we do know is that many lives have been shattered, and that the loss of a child is the worst possible loss a parent, a community, and a society can suffer. How can we ever come to understand what makes our young people so desperately angry that they take a life? When something like this happens, we reexamine and recommit our efforts at supporting our children’s emotional well-being, especially in school. As always, our school administration and crisis teams have been completely on top of this situation all week, providing support to students, and ensuring that our building is safe.”
Police ask anyone with information to contact Nassau County Crime Stoppers at (800) 244-TIPS. All callers will remain anonymous .
Nadya Nataly contributed to this story.