CPD mourns officer killed in Austin store robbery

December 31, 2011 6:05:41 AM PST
Chicago police officers are mourning one of their own after an off-duty officer was shot and killed while working security at a convenience store.

The veteran officer was based out of the 15th District.

Clifton Lewis, 41, was an eight-year veteran of the Chicago Police Department. He was gunned down Thursday night as two men robbed M&M Quick Foods at North Austin and West Division. So far, no one is in custody.

The food store was closed for business Friday. They are turning customers away, and police continued to guard the front door while the investigation continues.

Lewis was just hired after the store had been robbed. Store management had no comment, but they were inside assisting police.

The Police Memorial Foundation is offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrests of the killers. Police ask that people with information call 1-888-YPO-SHOT.

Police Supt. Garry McCarthy gathered officers at a news conference Friday to speak about a man known as a "gentle giant."

"It seems that certain crimes can shock our sensibilities whether it's a 2-year-old and a 7-year-old being shot while skipping rope in a park or a police officer being murdered while carrying out their duty," McCarthy said. "It's an affront and assault on the entire community and it shocks us every time it happens."

Cmdr. Walter Green of the 15th District said Lewis is from the "big family in blue," a group that will not rest until his killers are arrested.

"All I can say is that I hope the community is as insulted as we are that this would happen in a cold and blatant manner that someone could do this," Green said. " I can't call the person who did this a man because he' not. More like an animal and we will catch this person with the assistance of our people out here."

Customers remembered a robbery at the store a few weeks back.

"They just hired him, like recently, because of the robbery. So he [was] in the store, like, trying to protect them behind the counters," said customer Tamara Davis.

"I met him one time, and the time I met him, he was a great guy," said customer David Townsend.

"I mean, he was a cool guy. I know he talked about sports. I never talked to him personally. I just heard him talk about it," said customer Curtis Arnold.

Some heard automatic fire, and sources say Lewis' gun was taken.

"One guy with no backup, no, two against one. What are you going to do?" said Townsend.

Fellow officers at the 15th District had little to say publicly Friday. In Lewis' neighborhood, those there remain stunned about his slaying.

"He was a real nice guy, real humble, and he was real helpful on the block," said friend Donald Page.

Lewis lived on the West Side about a mile from the store.

"It's kind of sad, to take someone's life like that," said neighbor Derry Chambliss.

Relatives say Lewis sought a second job because there was to be a wedding.

On Christmas morning, four days before his death, Lewis proposed to his longtime girlfriend.

Along with his fianc?, he's survived by an 11-year-old daughter who is now being cared for by her grandmother in the south suburbs.

"We're going to feel lost without him," said Henrietta Fountain, the grandmother of Lewis's daughter. "It's just going to be hard. For everyone that loved Cliff, and I can imagine it's just so many people, it's just a great loss."

"This is a real sad day in our community, a sad day. We have to turn this around," said Pastor Ira Acree, Greater St. John Bible Church. "Whenever you lose a police officer, the person who has been appointed to serve and protect, that devastates a community."

As word spread about the death, fellow officers rushed to Stroger Hospital. They formed an honor line and saluted as Lewis' body was taken to a waiting fire department ambulance from the emergency room. In another show of honor, police cars and emergency vehicles formed a procession around the ambulance that took his body to the medical examiner's office.

A few witnesses say they heard shouting between the off-duty officer and a customer, so they decided to leave out of fear. Then they say they heard gunshots.

STATEMENT FROM MAYOR EMANUEL ON THE DEATH OF CHICAGO POLICE OFFICER CLIFTON LEWIS

The death of Police Officer Clifton Lewis is a tragic and senseless loss, most deeply for Officer Lewis' family and those who served alongside him, but also for the entire city of Chicago.

Officer Lewis died as he had lived, serving and protecting his community. He proudly wore the CPD uniform for eight years in the 15th district where he worked each and every day to preserve the safety and well-being of the community. His courage and sense of duty to the City are examples for us all.

There are no words that can make this loss easier to bear for Officer Lewis' family and colleagues; and we want them to know that they are not alone. As a City, we mourn Officer Lewis' death and our thoughts and prayers are with his family, friends and colleagues.


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