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UO athlete moves forward after tragic event

EUGENE Ñ Tony Salazar walks by the spot every day and remembers the blood that covered the face of his friend and teammate.

'It was terrible,' says Salazar, a University of Oregon student and Central Catholic High graduate. 'It seemed like he was bleeding through his whole face and both eyes.'

The Eugene Police Department investigated what happened the morning of March 1, when Eric Dylan Jones beat up Oregon defensive end Devan Long.

Long needed five titanium plates to help heal his broken jaw and nose. He lost 20 pounds from his 265-pound playing weight Ñ he jokes about having to eat his mother's enchiladas blended. He has been held out of contact in spring football drills as he tries to regain full health.

In a surreal twist, Jones, 25, ended up dead.

After taking eyewitness accounts, including Jones' description of what happened at the apartment complex on East 15th Street, Eugene police set out to arrest Jones on March 12. He would have been charged with second-degree assault.

Jones, a UO student who claimed he had come to the defense of his girlfriend being harassed by Long, agreed to turn himself in, but authorities lost track of him until March 21.

Jones' brother found him dead behind their parents' house in Salem. Police said Jones took his life, dying of a self-inflicted gunshot to the head.

Friends said Jones probably felt that they had lost respect for him and that he wouldn't have been comfortable returning to campus. He was on probation for an October 2001 coercion conviction and perhaps because of that would have faced a stiffer penalty for the assault.

The death effectively closed the criminal case.

'It sure got weird,' says Salazar, a nonscholarship football receiver and son of former marathon great Alberto Salazar. 'Going from hatred at the guy for what happened to like, obviously, he had bigger problems than that. I'm not sure what I'm supposed to feel now.'

Long says he feels partly embarrassed, partly upset about having to miss spring ball, and partly unsympathetic about the man who made mincemeat of his face.

'Never heard of him. When I saw his face in the newspaper was the first time I saw him,' says Long, 19. 'I have no connection. Too bad he took his own life.'

'Out of control'

According to the police report, Salazar and Long, both minors, had spent the night drinking and hanging out at Taylor's, a popular off-campus bar. On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being falling-down drunk, Salazar told police their conditions were 'probably an 8.'

Eugene Detective Jeff Donaca said Long was being aggressive with strangers. 'He was no angel that night,' Donaca says.

Jones and his girlfriend, Ariana Schwartz, had been attending a party on the second floor of Salazar's apartment complex. Nischita Shrestha, the party host, told investigators Jones had been drinking heavily and became belligerent and threatening. Jones left about a half-hour before Long and Salazar arrived at the complex.

Long and Salazar encountered Schwartz in the courtyard of the complex, and Long admitted to flirting with her. At that point, according to witnesses, Jones and some of his friends returned, and Jones walked up to Long. They looked at each other briefly before Jones punched Long in the side of the head. More punches followed and, once Long had been knocked off his feet, Jones kicked him in the head, witnesses said.

'Eric didn't get touched,' Luke Merriam, a witness, told police. 'I was really disturbed by what happened. The guy (Long) didn't have a chance. (Jones) was out of control.'

Salazar told The Tribune that at least five men jumped Long. It wasn't clear whether others kicked him; Merriam described Jones' kick as 'a soccer-style kick.' Salazar went back to help Long and ended up scuffling with Jones' friend, Jack Stephenson.

Moments later, Jones and Stephenson fled the scene, and medics arrived to assist Long.

Schwartz said in an Oregon Daily Emerald story April 1 that Jones 'was in fact coming to my defense in a situation where I felt menaced.' But Donaca said Long was not culpable, and he Ñ and others involved Ñ would not face charges.

After speaking with Donaca, the players, attorneys and witnesses, Oregon coach Mike Bellotti felt convinced that Long did not provoke the situation. 'It wasn't a fight,' Bellotti says. 'It was some punches and a kick.'

Bellotti would not say whether Salazar and Long will be disciplined, specifically for drinking and patronizing an overage establishment. 'Privacy issues I can't talk about,' the coach says.

Player looks forward

Long does not remember anything about the incident after the initial punch.

'I've put the event behind me,' he says. 'Obviously, I think about it, because I've let down my teammates.

'The way I look at it, bad things happen to everybody,' says Long, who could start next fall at left defensive end if Chris Solomona doesn't jump ahead of him this spring. 'I can still play football. What if (Jones) kicked one of my eyes out?'

Long's family does not plan to file a civil suit to recoup medical costs, and Bailey Cunningham, Long's mother, says she has not heard from the Jones family.

Long also feels somewhat chagrined. He grew up being 'pounded on' by his older brother, Rien, an NFL defensive line prospect, but mostly over trivial things such as Ken Griffey Jr. baseball cards. And he had 'respect' with classmates in Anacortes, Wash., and never had to scuffle.

Salazar still lives at the apartment complex and sees Schwartz at times.

'We try to go our different ways,' he says. 'I haven't been faced with having to walk right by her. I've been able to avoid it.'

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