2 Fenger coaches removed as beating of student investigated
Chicago Police detectives walk in the alley where the fight took place between Darion Jones (inset) and members of the Fenger High School football team in Chicago, Tuesday, October 4, 2011. (Heather Charles, Chicago Tribune, inset/family photo / October 4, 2011)
"I already lost one daughter to senseless murder," said Thurmond-Jones, her voice shaking with anger and fear as she sat on her living room couch, the walls covered with her six children's portraits, diplomas and academic awards. "I know the pain, and I was begging those boys, 'Don't kill my kids. Please don't kill them.'"
A Chicago Public Schools spokeswoman said Fenger's varsity football coach, Cassius Chambers, and an assistant coach, identified as Roscoe Pitts, have been suspended with pay while school officials investigate the incident. Chambers also works as a teacher's assistant at the school while Pitts is a security guard there. The school website also identifies Pitts as head baseball coach. Neither coach could be reached for comment Tuesday.
Fenger drew international attention after the beating death of an honor roll student, 16-year-old Derrion Albert, was captured on video during a melee near the school in 2009. Five assailants went to prison — four for lengthy sentences — for that attack.
Thurmond-Jones said she heard a loud commotion outside her South Side house at about 11 a.m. Saturday. When she went to investigate, she said she first saw blood streaming from her son's face, his ripped shirt hanging from his body.
She said about 20 to 30 teens were beating her son, Darion Jones, 16, a junior who takes special education classes at Fenger, and her 15-year-old grandson. She also said two men, one of whom identified himself as a Fenger football coach, were outside her house during the attack.
"It was horrendous to see this many kids out there," she said. "I just couldn't believe it."
Jones lost a tooth in the beating and had another one knocked loose, his mother said. He also lost a prosthetic contact lens that covers his right eye, which he lost after he had cataracts as a young child, she said.
"A lot of people could have been seriously hurt or killed," Thurmond-Jones said. "It only takes one blow."
Thurmond-Jones said her son and her grandson, who attends a different high school, were mowing the lawn at her home in the 11800 block of South Wentworth Avenue when they were attacked.
The fight centered on her son's alleged theft of sandals from a football player, Thurmond-Jones said, but he denied it.
Suffering from chronic asthma and a herniated disc in her back and breathing with the help of an oxygen tank, Thurmond-Jones said she is struggling to deal with the aftermath of her son's beating, especially in the wake of her daughter's murder in 2007.
Tanisha Thurmond, 27, a popular math teacher at Julian High School, was found strangled in her West Pullman apartment in February 2007. Her boyfriend, Allen Blanch, was charged with killing Thurmond after she told him she wanted to end their relationship, prosecutors have said. Blanch is still awaiting trial in Cook County Jail.
"I can't sleep," Thurmond-Jones said as she tried to hold back tears. "I can't do nothing. I'm scared to go (outside)…. I'm just in fear right now."
Thurmond-Jones said her son is afraid to go back to Fenger and that she hasn't decided what to do when he's ready to begin classes again.
No charges have been filed, but Chicago police said they were investigating.
Tribune reporters Jeremy Gorner and Erin Meyer contributed.