On Wednesday, March 19, 2014, 15-year-old Masharah’s life came to a devastating halt as she was walking home on the streets of Chicago with her dad, Michael Tingling. They were approached by a man who assaulted them with racial slurs, which led to a physical altercation and Tingling’s death while defending his daughter.
Tingling was well known in the Chicago community for always assisting his neighbor, salon owner Carmen Priester, whose shop is located in the same building as Tingling’s apartment. Priester expressed her disbelief and grief stating Tingling would be greatly missed. He was a daily visitor to her shop to either say hello or to offer his assistance with any odd jobs she had and would often accompany her salon clients to their cars as a way of keeping them safe. True to his nature, Tingling did what was natural to him as a dad, defending his own daughter from a wild man and dying in the process.
Joseph Firek, a man with a troubled past and previous criminal record of burglaries, was walking past Tingling and his daughter when he brushed the shoulder of the daughter. At this point, Firek began eyeing Tingling’s daughter up and down and making rude comments towards the girl. Tingling then pushed his daughter behind him and told Firek to back off, at which time Firek hurled racial epithets towards them. That is when pushing and shoving ensued. Tingling tried to get away but Firek pursued him on foot. Firek then punched Tingling in the chest several times before passersby were able to intervene and break up the pair while the daughter was on her cell phone trying to call police. Finally, Tingling and his daughter were able to get away and sought safety in a nearby business. Tingling was complaining of chest pains and shortness of breath and was taken away by paramedics. Masharah stayed at the scene and was able to identify Firek to the authorities. Shortly after, minutes before 3pm, Tingling was pronounced dead. Tingling had prior health issues of diabetes and heart disease, which resulted in the need to wear a pacemaker. The deadly chest blows thrown by Firek are thought to be the cause of death by inflicting stress and trauma to the heart.
Firek was charged in a Chicago court Friday with a hate crime in connection with Tingling’s death and held on a quarter of a million dollars bond. On the same day, instead of being in class and looking forward to walking home with her dad, Masharah is with her family mourning her hero dad’s death. Masharah, already an excellent student, made her dad proud and wants to honor him in death by continuing to excel in school and reaching her ultimate goal of becoming a veterinarian. Masharah does not want her father’s death to be in vain and said that although he is not here physically, she knows he will always be here with her in spirit, protecting her.
Firek is under a physician’s care for mental illness and is suffering from his own physical illnesses. Firek did not give authorities a reason for why he attacked Tingling and instead was said to have tried to console Masharah at the scene while expressing remorse for what he did. The tragedy is in this normal activity of a Chicago dad and daughter walking home from school being interrupted with no cause by a crazed stranger and a dad who died defending his daughter.
By Debra Pittman