CHICAGO — A retired boxer from Belize who died after a Rogers Park street scuffle Wednesday had been trying to protect his daughter, relatives and witnesses said.
Michael Tingling, 59, picked up 15-year-old Masharah Tingling from the Chicago Math and Science Academy, 7212 N. Clark. St., around 1 p.m. Wednesday.
The teen had a doctor's appointment later that day, her mom said, and Tingling hoped to sneak in some father-daughter doughnut time beforehand. Masharah was his only child.
As the pair walked down the 7100 block of North Clark Street, a man in his 50s began eyeing Masharah. He started to approach the teen, but Tingling stepped in and told him to go away.
Instead, the man pushed Tingling, Masharah and police said.
"My dad — being a boxer and having the temperament that he has — he wasn't going to just let that fly," she said. "He pushed the guy back, and [the guy] punched him directly in his chest. My dad has a pacemaker in his chest."
The two men started throwing punches, police said. Masharah remembers yelling, "'Don't touch my dad! Leave my dad alone!'"
After the fight broke up, Masharah and her father made their way into an alley. Tingling, who was having a hard time breathing, sat down in an auto repair shop.
As they waited for an ambulance, Tingling's eyes stopped moving and his tongue began to roll, Masharah said. His pulse was faint.
The man who punched Tingling had followed the pair into the alley. Masharah said he called the family "n-----s" and told them to "go back to Africa" but soon started repeating: "I hope he's OK. I hope I didn't kill him."
Tingling was taken to Saint Francis Hospital in Evanston, where he was pronounced dead at 2:46 p.m. Wednesday. An autopsy determined Tingling died of heart disease and stress due to an altercation.
When police arrived on the scene Wednesday, they took 59-year-old Joseph Firek into custody. Late Thursday, Firek was charged with murder and hate crime.
A police report said Firek appeared to be drunk. Police said the man had a long arrest history, including multiple burglary and theft charges. He was paroled from prison in January after serving time for residential burglary.
"Masharah is only 15. She doesn't need to have this clouding up her memories for the rest of her life," said her mother, 53-year-old Yolanda Simmons, as relatives gathered in her Rogers Park home Thursday.
"I just buried my daddy five weeks ago, so I know what she's going through," Simmons said through tears. "I don't wish this on nobody. He was taken from her too young, and he was looking forward to her graduation."
Masharah is slated to graduate from eighth grade in June.
Friends and neighbors on Thursday said Tingling was that guy everybody knew. He spent most of his days walking around Rogers Park, flashing a "gap tooth" smile and chatting up strangers.
He doted on kids, neighbors said, and could usually be spotted at Pallo's Barber Shop, 7107 N. Clark St., or the McDonald's at Western and Morse avenues.
"Everywhere I go, people will be like, 'Oh, you're Tingy's daughter?'" Masharah said. "Yeah, you don't even know my first name."
Tingling had moved to the United States when he was 16 and lived in California, New York, Colorado, Massachusetts and Oregon before settling in Chicago.
While he had moved a lot in his life, "his home was planted in Chicago," Simmons said.
Tingling boxed in both Belize and the United States. before moving on to a career in retail. He worked at a Kmart and the Target at 2112 W. Peterson Ave., among other stores. Family said Tingling like working retail because he got to interact with customers.
Friends remembered Tingling as a doting father — one of those dads where every conversation inevitably came back to his kid.
"He's one of the best fathers I ever came across and one of the most overprotective," said friend Hussein Edwards, 31. "When it comes to [Masharah], he don't play."
Masharah said her dad's death didn't seem real.
It'll probably hit her when her dad's not there to take her to or from school, she said.
"Who's going to walk me to school now?" she asked.
The Tingling family is seeking donations to help cover funeral costs. Contributions can be sent to the "Mike Tingling Funeral Family Fund" at Bank of America.