CHICAGO | The Cook County medical examiner’s office was unable to make a ruling on the cause of death of a security guard who died while trying to break up a fight this week between two girls at Thornwood High School.
An autopsy was conducted Friday morning on Richard Cowser, 54, of South Holland, although officials with the medical examiner’s office said Friday afternoon that a cause of death was “awaiting further study.”
South Holland police have said Cowser was one of two security guards at Thornwood High School who intervened to break up a fight between two female students. They say at one point during the struggle, Cowser fell against a school locker.
After his fall, he began having problems breathing, which caused officials to call for paramedics who took him to Ingalls Memorial Hospital in Harvey, where he was pronounced dead 1:33 p.m. Thursday.
Medical examiner officials could not say Friday how long the studies would take to complete.
South Holland Police Chief Gregory Baker said police were waiting for information from the medical examiner’s office before a decision could be made as to whether the two girls in the fight were in any way responsible for Cowser’s death.
Baker said it would be “premature” to say now whether either girl would face any kind of charges or a juvenile petition for the incident.
“Hopefully, when we have complete information, we will be able to make a decision,” Baker said.
Police spent Thursday interviewing students about the incident, including the two girls who were in the fight. Classes were not in session Friday at Thornwood due to previously scheduled parent-teacher conferences.
Thornton Township High School District 205 School Board President Kenneth Williams declined to discuss the incident, referring all questions to interim Superintendent Stacey McJunkins, who was unavailable Friday for comment.
In a prepared statement, the district said it was conducting its own internal investigation of the incident, while also cooperating with the South Holland Police Department.
The district plans to offer counseling services to students.
District 205 officials also said Cowser was a “treasured member” of the district who also was an alumnus of Thornwood High School.
“We are also working with the Cowser family to determine the best way to honor Rich and his legacy,” the district said.
Janet Cowser, the wife of Richard, said her husband was known to Thornwood students as “Hulk” Cowser because of a slight resemblance to the wrestler Hulk Hogan. She said he was dedicated to his job at his high school alma mater.
“He was a great man. He took care of me, he guided me, he was always there for me,” she told NBC5 television news. “He didn’t let us stray and get lost. He was right there. He was the strong one. I was the one who followed right behind him.”