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Family, friends remember Donovan Turnage, boy killed in carjack chase

Updated: January 25, 2014 6:26AM

Derrick Turnage had purchased two Xbox video games and was looking forward to seeing the face of his 11-year-old kid brother, Donovan, on Christmas morning when he opened them.

“I just wanted to give him his present so bad,” Derrick, 20, said at a memorial service for Donovan on Monday afternoon.

Donovan was in the back seat when a man fleeing police in a stolen car crashed into his father’s SUV on Saturday in the 5500 block of South Halsted. Donovan was ejected from the SUV and died. Derrick was in the car, too. The trio was headed to get haircuts. Derrick, who, along with his father, suffered minor injuries, found his little brother lying on a curb.

“I ran over there and held his head and looked him in the eye, and I could tell he drifted away right there,” Derrick said Monday after nearly 100 people gathered in the auditorium of Morrill Math & Science School in Chicago Lawn, where Donovan was in the fifth grade.

Before the crash, Derrick was listening to music on his headphones and didn’t speak to his brother. He takes solace in a few words he told his little brother the previous evening. “I told him I loved him, good night, kissed him on his forehead,” said Derrick, who works as a security guard at Morrill.

Donovan was known for having a knack with computers, and he became something of a resident “IT guy” for faculty and relatives alike.

And he was funny. His homeroom teacher, Kristal Coleman, often found herself trying to stifle laughter around him.

“Sometimes I would just find myself yelling at him because I told myself if I don’t yell at him I’m going to just bust out laughing or have to excuse myself in the hallway,” Coleman said.

She recently noticed a big bulge under Donovan’s shirt and discovered that he was trying to smuggle Flamin’ Hot Cheetos into class.

Donovan took pride in a school sweatshirt Coleman gave him for improved behavior. Coleman said he had a thirst for history, and she envisioned him someday becoming a lawyer or congressman.

“I’m grateful I had an opportunity to be part of his life,” she said.

Dezmon Tillman, a close friend and classmate, recalled a game of “Hangman” in which Donovan used the word “pancakes” and, as a clue, said the word he chose was a food. Another classmate guessed pancakes, “But [Donovan] said it was ‘hamburgers.’ ”

The story, told from a podium, got a laugh. But Dezmon’s mother, Aimee Tillman, later said she didn’t quite understand why. “I don’t know, but that’s the relationship they had, they just understood each other.”

Known as “Scribbles” because he wiggled and squirmed a lot as an infant, Donovan was playing video games and procrastinating on getting dressed the morning he died.

“I’d walk by and he’d have one sock on, and I’d tell him again to get dressed,” his mother, Annette Turnage, with a smile. “And he’d stop for minute and then put on the other sock. You had to tell him like 90 times.”

His mother said he loved to play flag football and she planned to put his football in his room.

Derrick put the unwrapped Xbox games in his room, too.

When asked if she thinks police acted appropriately in pursuing the driver who killed her son, she said: “No comment.”

Derrick, said he cannot blame police. “They’re doing their job, they’re doing the best they can. I’m not going to blame anybody but the guy that hit us.”


Twitter: @mitchdudek

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