Chicago Police Ask Public for Help Solving the Murder of an Off-Duty Officer

Police superintendent connects death to proliferation of illegal firearms in city


FRANK MAIN | Thursday, January 5, 2012

As he begged for the public to cough up information about the killing of a Chicago cop, police Supt. Garry McCarthy said the shooting demonstrates the need to stop the proliferation of illegal firearms.

McCarthy said detectives have made "a lot of progress" investigating the murder of Officer Clifton Lewis, who was shot last Thursday in a West Side convenience store where he worked off-duty as a security guard.

Detectives are searching for two masked gunmen caught on videotape in the apparent robbery. No arrests have been made.

"We are doing everything we can to solve this crime," McCarthy said.

A total of $33,000 in reward money has been offered for information leading to the arrest of the suspects, including $20,000 from the Chicago Police Memorial Foundation, $11,000 from the Fraternal Order of Police and $2,000 from a group of pastors.

McCarthy spoke about the investigation at the Austin District where the 41-year-old Lewis worked as a tactical officer. He used the occasion to call on Congress to close what he called loopholes in federal gun laws.

McCarthy said two key ways for crooks to get guns in Chicago are loosely regulated gun shows and "straw buyers" whose lack of a criminal record allows them to purchase weapons for criminals at federally licensed gun stores.

The superintendent said Congress could close loopholes in gun laws without violating the public's Second Amendment right to bear arms.

Chicago is awash in guns, demonstrated by the 131 guns officers seized on New Year's Eve, compared to 83 last New Year's Eve, McCarthy said. Through the middle of 2012, Chicago's gun seizures outpaced New York's by 7 to 1 per capita, he said.

"The proliferation of guns here is unacceptable," McCarthy said. "It puts our officers in danger every day. It puts us in armed confrontations every single day."

McCarthy said he was out with officers in the Austin District on New Year's Eve and saw them sprinting toward gunfire to make arrests.

"That's the character of the Chicago policeman," he said. "That's the character of Clifton Lewis."

Lewis, who won 80 department awards over his eight-year career, was killed just four days after becoming engaged to be married - on Christmas Day.

Lewis took the security job at M&M Quick Foods in the 1200 block of North Austin after the store was robbed several weeks earlier. Lewis was a resident of the Austin neighborhood, noted Ald. Emma Mitts (37th).

"He worked in the community that he lived in," Mitts said. "Not often do we have police officers who want to work in an area that's so high in [criminal] activity that goes on day in and day out."

Mitts said anyone with information about the murder should call her office if they are afraid to speak to the police.

"I pray that the community doesn't just lay down," she said. "Somebody needs to say something."

On Wednesday, first-year police officers fanned out in Austin to pass out fliers to residents, seeking their help in solving the crime. Mayor Rahm Emanuel assisted in the effort.

"It's sad and sickening any police officer or kid is shot down like a dog or rabbit," said Lucille Deanes, a 34-year resident of the neighborhood, after an officer handed her one of the fliers.

McCarthy said more than 200 officers a day have been tasked to make arrests and question suspects about any information they might have on Lewis' murder.

"When the police is gunned down, it doesn't bode well for the rest of us," said the Rev. Ira Acree, pastor of Greater St. John Bible Church in Austin.



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