“You know you get those sickening texts… and I about fell to my knees,” said University of Indianapolis Head Football Coach Bob Bartolomeo, reflecting on when he received the news that officer Tim Jones, UIndy alum and former football player, had been shot three times in the neck and head during a gunfire exchange while responding to a report of a burglary in Park Forest, Ill., on March 19. Bartolomeo received the news immediately on the morning of the shooting.
“To see that happen to that kid especially—he’s so vibrant and such a great kid, such a success story. He was just trying to do the right thing,” Bartolomeo said. “And to hear that, with any law officer—it was just a sad day.”
Redshirt junior wide receiver Malcolm Fogle spent one year of his UIndy football career playing alongside Jones. Although Bartolomeo contacted the staff and players as quickly as he could, Fogle had already received the news almost immediately that day and said he had a hard time comprehending what had happened.
“I saw it on Facebook, and then I got a lot of texts from guys on the team,” Fogle said. “I immediately texted Tim, because I didn’t want it to be true. The only thing I could think to do was pray.”
As of The Reflector press time, Jones, a 2014 graduate, had been relocated to a rehabilitation center and was no longer on life support. Bartolomeo said that anyone who knows Jones would not be surprised at how he has survived through this. Jones fought and worked hard both on the field and in the classroom in his years at UIndy, Bartolomeo said.
“He was a tremendous student-athlete. He really worked hard in both the academics and football world… Nobody worked harder,” he said. “In the first couple [of] years, he paid his dues and didn’t play much, but he was a kid that was never going to be denied. He just kept getting better and better. By the time he was a senior, he made a big impact on a championship team, a playoff team. He was a guy that was making an impact. He was always well liked by everyone on the team because everyone saw his work ethic, and he was always encouraging guys to do better, as well as himself. He was an all around team player.”
Fogle described Jones as a laidback, fun and great person to be around. He also witnessed Jones’ work ethic and team-player mentality as his teammate.
“As an athlete, Tim was always grinding. He went hard at every weight-lifting session and practice,” Fogle said. “He never took anything for granted. He taught me to cherish every moment in football, because once it’s over, it’s over. You never had to teach Tim to give effort every day. Regardless of the circumstance, he gave his all.”
Fogle is one of the few players on the roster who remember when Jones was a part of the UIndy team. Nonetheless, Bartolomeo said, the team is constantly asking for updates on Jones’ condition.
“The team’s reaction is one of concern,” Bartolomeo said. “The guys are always asking me how he is doing. You don’t want to be a pest with his parents, but there is concern throughout the team, because it is one of our guys. They feel a connection there. They obviously want to see him pull out of this and move on.”
Bartolomeo said that there are several graduates who work in the Chicago area who have visited Jones and his parents and will send the coaches and players updates as well. Bartolomeo drove up to see Jones a week after the shooting and said he talks with Jones’ mother every night to see how they are doing.
As of The Reflector press time, a GoFundMe page entitled “Officer Tim Jones Fight” had raised more than $67,000 by approximately 1,200 different donors. According to an April 7 Chicago Tribune article, a fundraiser at a Culver’s restaurant in Matteson, Ill., raised more than $5,000. Wristbands and T-shirts, branded with the words “TimStrong” also are being sold.
Bartolomeo said this shows that there is a large amount of support across the country not only for Jones, but for law enforcement in general.
“I think it speaks highly of what most people think about police officers, that’s first and foremost—not only Tim Jones, but how the whole nation respects the officers and what they are put through. There is a lot of nationwide support from that standpoint,” Bartolomeo said. “It’s very much appreciated by his parents.”
Bartolomeo said the coaching staff has discussed various ways to help Jones and his family, but their biggest priority is just to be there for the Jones family and each other.
“The biggest thing is just to keep asking for thoughts and prayers. As a team, we prayed together. We don’t force anyone to do that, but we do it together,” Bartolomeo said. “One of the coachs’ wives made us blue ribbons, and we’ve got ‘Tim Strong’ going on. I encourage the team [members] to go on the GoFundMe page, if they can.”
Fogle said that he would like others to keep Jones in their thoughts as well.
“He is a great guy and leader. I just want everyone to keep praying for him and his family. It is definitely rough to see a great guy like him be in this situation,” Fogle said.
Donations can be made by visiting www.gofundme.com/timstrong.