Todd's People: Derek, The Bible-Thumping Face Puncher
Growing up, Derek Zugic led a gangster's life in the suburbs of Chicago, but nowadays he studies the Bible every day. He is a three-time Chicago Golden Glove Boxing champion who can throw punches that are so fast, you don’t even see them being thrown (like this one). He once blew $50,000 on one bet in Las Vegas after his father’s death and saw the gates of hell while on LSD. One time, he said to me, "if you want some, I can punch you in the face with the Holy Spirit".
VICE: I remember you told me once that you almost lost your life in Brookfield.
Derek: I was 18. I started drinking early. One night, I was getting drunk with some friends in a prairie before heading to a party. I almost got in a fight there and my friend Bryan ended up sticking someone.
Yeah, stuck him in the face - punched. Either way, the boys in the neighbourhood were mostly Simon City Royals, members of the white gang that was throwing the house party. Someone had acquired a semi-truck of kegs. There was a good amount of people there, mostly people from the neighbourhood or gangsters from the north side that had moved there, but there were two older dudes that I didn’t know. Some comments and words were exchanged, I didn’t like their vibe, they didn’t like mine.
But they were buddies of buddies right?
They were all my homeboys, they respected me as one of the boys in the neighbourhood, but I was never officially one of them. One of the older dudes was the leader of Simon City Royals, a 29-year-old named Hector - a real fat, short dude. He had a buddy, Cadillac Dave, that kept putting his arm around me and saying “let’s smoke in the garage”, I was like, “cool, I’ll smoke it, but don’t touch me. I don’t know you”. I go in the garage and he does it again.
How many people are in the garage and what did you do about Cadillac Dave?
Just a few. When he put his arm around me again I give him more attitude. I’m like, “I told yo ass not to touch me!” Hector just looks at me in disgust. I had a 40oz in my hand. He tried hitting me with his left hand while the other dude, Cadillac Dave, is grabbing me by my neck and throwing me out the door. I dodged his punch and smashed the forty on him. It just shattered and knocked the dude out. I turn and Hector is coming at me with his hands up. I’m 6’ 4”. Ninety-nine percent of the time you come at me, imma hit you first. I threw one punch straight to the jaw. Dude just fell like a tree. More guys come and try to cool it down. My friends tell me to run.
And you’re still drunk, right?
Yes, that was the problem and the fence was big and I couldn’t jump it. I turned around and Hector came at me. I threw a punch. He went straight under and punched me in the chest. He was a little bit dazed and so he fell on top of me. He kept punching my chest, up from underneath. I gathered every single last ounce of strength in me and threw him over my shoulder. I was about to start rockin’ him - I was gonna knock him out. That’s when I see a knife. I yell out “he’s got a shank” and my homies were his homies, but they jump in. They tell me, “Derek, get outta here!”
I jumped a smaller fence and just collapsed on the landing. I felt wetness on my shirt. I look and there's blood. I lift the shirt and blood is coming out like a water fountain and I scream, “I need an ambulance”. It turns out he stabbed me seven times. Punctured both my lungs. I started taking deep breaths, wheezing, and thought, 'is this it? It’s so easy to die'. My friends get me to their pick-up truck and I just blackout. Boom, dead on the corner.
Did you get an ambulance or did they drive you?
My friends threw me in the back of the truck and when they took off, my heels were dragging. When I woke up in the hospital, I remember the thing that felt the worst were my heels, torn up from the pavement. I eventually came to after puking up the worst pain I've ever felt.
Do you drink anymore?
If I drink, I drink Jesus juice—wine. But I don’t really drink. I don’t go out. I’d rather get pizza and have a Bible study. When’s the last time you went to church? Because we’re going.
Do you bring a lot of people to Bible study?
One morning, I prayed to God to bring someone into my life that needs Jesus. I woke up at 7am and all these gang-bangers are standing outside my steps. So I stepped out and preached to them. When I came out I said, “I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I prayed to God and now you’re standing here”. One of them joined me and later, at the Bible study, we found out he had been shot at a few hours before.
When is the first time you preached?
My father passed away a couple years ago. The only way I could explain the death was through the Bible. When I got on the pulpit at the funeral, I inspired my friend to take Jesus as his lord and saviour. I said the prayer with my heart. He was a dope fiend and a gang-banger. He even had heroin on him at the funeral. He threw it out the car window later as he rode away. He's been changed ever since.
If I don’t try to be a leader in the way God wants me to be, who will? People look up to me on the streets because I obviously whupped a lot of people in the neighborhood. I whupped them in the ring. I also made it in the dope game and they looked up to me for the wrong reasons. But now if I come at them not with a bag a weed, but preaching, they just think I’ve gone crazy. Now I come at them with good news: the Bible, love.