EAST ST. LOUIS — Instead of making college plans or watching him play in the NBA, Stacey Phiffer was making funeral arrangements for her 18-year old son.
Alonzo Phiffer, whom family and friends called Cronic, was among three people who were shot and killed outside of Club VIP early Sunday morning. Five people were shot, three fatally. Two others were treated and released from area hospitals.
Stacey Phiffer, 41, said her son, an "A" student and guard on the East St. Louis High School basketball team, was supposed to be going to a hotel party and she believes he was following his two older brothers and went to Club VIP, 6830 State St., which is a juice bar that was hosting an under-age birthday party.
Police said two groups of young people were arguing outside the club about 2:15 a.m. when shots rang out. Phiffer said she is frustrated and wonders whether there were any security officers on the parking lot.
"Some people told me that when my son and some others saw the guys from St. Louis pull out some guns, they ran back to the club's door screaming out that the guys had guns. But, they were not let back in."
Phiffer said her son was well-liked and didn't get into trouble.
"He was loved by so many people because he was just a good person. Nobody can say anything bad about him. He wasn't in a gang. He didn't drink or smoke," she said.
Phiffer said Alonzo loved singing and basketball.
"He had a beautiful voice. And, as soon as school was over, he rushed home, changed clothes, grabbed a book bag and rushed back across the street to the school to play basketball. He loved it. He always talked about going to the NBA and getting his siblings and me out of East St. Louis. If he wasn't at East Side, he was at the Christian Activity Center, where he also went to play basketball. He was a very special person," Phiffer said.
She said her faith and the blessing she received from God to be a strong person is what is holding her up.
"I've been through a lot. But this is a whole lot. I don't want another mother or another family to go through what I am going through. It's rough," Phiffer said.
The other victims were identified as Henry Bird III, 21, of Alton, and Marcus Holmes, 20, of St. Louis. Police are investigating the shootings but said they are having trouble getting witnesses to describe what they saw.
"Every time I pass that building, I see a lot of cameras. I want to know were they working and do is there a surveillance photo that shows what happened?" Phiffer said.
Phiffer, who has five other sons and a daughter, said she wants police to arrest the people responsible.
Senior Master Sgt. Victor Dorsey, at Scott Air Force Base, who is helping the family, said an account to benefit the family has been set up at Regions Bank. Donations may be made to the Serenity Memorial Chapel Alonzo Phiffer fund.
Dorsey, president of the Tuskeegee Airmen chapter at Scott, which aims to keep the memory of the Tuskeegee Airmen alive, said Phiffer was a great kid.
"He was very positive. When I met him and asked him his goals, he told me he wanted to be an NBA player. And I asked him about a back up plan in case he was not one of those who went to the NBA. He wanted to be a doctor," Dorsey said.
Last June, when Phiffer went to the base to participate in a Tuskeegee Airmen Youth Aviation seminar, his eyes lit up, Dorsey said.
"He got to fly a plane. He was with us for three days. We explored a lot. He enjoyed it very much. This experience made him want to consider entering the Air Force," Dorsey said.
Dorsey said that when he learned about the shootings from former East Side basketball coach Ray Coleman, he was shocked.
"For a positive young man like that to be taken is so senseless. He was a young man who was going to make an impact on society," he said.
Dorsey said the gun violence needs to stop.
"Not only are they taking a life, but they are throwing theirs away, too. Life in prison is not a way to go. They need to start cherishing life," he said.
Alonzo Phiffer's visitation is at 10 a.m. Oct. 5 at the Greater New Covenant, 8625 State St. The funeral is at 11 a.m.
Contact reporter Carolyn P. Smith at 239-2503.