It has been a little over a year since Officer Tim Jones, UIndy alum and former football player, was shot in the head and neck while responding to a burglary in Park Forest, Ill., on March 19, leaving him critically wounded. According to Tim’s father, Chief of Country Club Hills Police Department William Jones, he was sleeping when he heard “the knock of all knocks” on his door that morning.
“Tim’s police chief, Chief [of the Park Forest Police Department] Pete Green, was at my door telling me that my son had been shot,” William said. “As I tried to process what he had told me, I had one question: ‘Is my son dead?’”
Tim had to be put in a medically-induced coma, William said, so that the swelling in his brain was more likely to decrease and to prevent brain damage. According to William, all he and his family could do was pray, and the same went for Tim’s former football team and Head Football
Coach Bob Bartolomeo.
“When it happened, we had a lot of prayer with the team, a lot of thoughts and good wishes,” Bartolomeo said. “We had some guys go up and see him.”
One of the players who visited Tim in the hospital was graduate business in strategic leadership and design student Andrew Walker. The two football players met during Walker’s freshman year, and Walker describes their five-year relationship as being a “brother-like bond.” After discovering what had happened to Tim the day of the shooting, Walker said he was “dumbfounded” because he had just been visiting with Tim a couple of days before. He rushed back to see him the day after receiving the news.
After being taken out of the medically-induced coma, Tim went through two brain surgeries and continues to work toward recovery at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, William said.
Bartolomeo compared Tim’s resilience and determination to recover to his days as a football player at UIndy.
“I think Tim has always been a fighter,” Bartolomeo said. “Tim was a walk-on kid here, who earned his scholarship. I think that tells you a little bit—that he was a real tenacious player, a guy that was a fighter. He wouldn’t take no for an answer in terms of being too small, too slow as a wide receiver. He overcame a lot of odds here to play and ended up playing in our play-off game. So that shows you a little bit of the fighter in him. He wasn’t the biggest guy. He wasn’t the fastest guy. But he was a fighter. I think that carried over in enabling him to overcome his injuries.”
March 19 has since been declared Officer Timothy Jones Day by the Village of Park Forest “for the sacrifice he made one year ago … while working to keep Park Forest safe,” according to a Facebook post by the Park Forest Police Department. William said that the community has been a large source of support for Tim and his recovery.
“The amount of people that came together to pray for him is remarkable,” William said. “The various organizations and communities that came together to support a complete stranger is awesome. Social media shows multiple police departments all over showing support by wearing or holding TimStrong wear…. This has made him even more driven.”
On the one-year anniversary of the shooting, the UIndy softball team members decided to honor Tim by wearing blue ribbons in their hair at one of their games. Fifth year senior community health major Natalie Lalich and senior sports management major Katie Kelly are two team members who know Tim and describe him as a “genuine guy” and a “good friend.” Lalich said that they chose to wear blue ribbons so they could support Tim, even if they could not be there.
“We haven’t been able to talk to him, but it was just a way that we could show our support and that we’re still thinking of him,” Lalich said. “And we want him to get better.”
Lalich said that Tim’s strength and drive never to quit reminded her of what she and her team have to do on the field.
“You’re expected to not make it, and then you beat all the odds….” Lalich said. “He’s been counting on his friends and family, and that’s exactly what we have to do on the field. You know, count on the person next to you.”
Tim plans to return to his career as a police officer, William said, and that is one thing that helps him keep pushing forward with his rehabilitation.
“Tim’s relationship with God tells him that it’s not over,” William said. “He knows that God has a purpose for his life. There will be a testimony. Tim has always worked really hard towards his goals…. He wants to go back to work, so he’s grinding out in therapy.”
After seeing Tim go through everything in the past year, Walker said that his friend’s experience put a lot of things in perspective for him.
“He’s given me so much inspiration….” Walker said. “I’m not a huge complainer, but whenever I’m feeling like I don’t want to get up the next morning … or give it extra effort, I think about him. I think about his situation, and I think about where he’s at in life and how far he’s come in just a short year. It seems like yesterday we were back in the hospital, but he gives me inspiration to continue to maximize every second of the day and just achieve whatever it is that I want to achieve in my life.”