Police Officer Clifton Lewis
Chicago Police Department, Illinois
End of Watch: Thursday, December 29, 2011
Tour of Duty: 8 years
Badge Number: 4103
Cause of Death: Gunfire
Date of Incident: December 29, 2011
Weapon Used: Gun; Unknown type
Suspect Info: At large
Agency Contact Information
Superintendent Garry F. McCarthy
Chicago Police Department
3510 S. Michigan Avenue
Chicago, IL 60653
Phone: (312) 746-6000
Police Officer Clifton Lewis was shot and killed while attempting to take action during a robbery at a grocery store on North Austin Boulevard.
He was working an overtime security detail at the store, which had been robbed several weeks earlier, when two male subjects entered the store at about 8:30 pm. One of the men shot Officer Lewis multiple times before grabbing his service weapon and badge and fleeing the store.
Officer Lewis was transported to Stroger Hospital where he succumbed to his wounds. The two suspects remain at large.
Officer Lewis had served with the Chicago Police Department for eight years and was assigned to the 15th District’s Tactical Team. He is survived by his daughter, mother, and fiancee.
The off-duty Chicago police officer slain in a West Side convenience store Thursday night had just gotten engaged on Christmas Day, family friends say.
Clifton Lewis, 41, an eight-year veteran assigned to the Austin District’s tactical team, was pronounced dead Thursday at Stroger Hospital, officials said. Two men had walked into the M & M Quick Foods about 8:30 p.m. at 1201 N. Austin Blvd. in the Austin neighborhood, shot the officer, and then grabbed his gun and star and fled, sources said.
At a press conference today, Chicago Police Department Supt. Garry McCarthy said that both of the offenders were armed, one with a pistol and the other a weapon that appeared on video to be a TEC-9. He also said that Lewis, who was standing behind the counter, drew his own weapon and was "subsequently shot."
"The officer didn’t stand a chance in this case. He did everything he could," McCarthy said. "Both offenders were wearing masks when they entered the location. One of the two offenders immediately turned and started firing at Officer Lewis. And Officer Lewis engaged that individual … and was subsequently murdered."
McCarthy said police have recovered much of Lewis’ property but would not specifically say if his badge or gun were among those items. Police had said earlier that they have not recovered the officer’s weapon.
No one was in custody in the slaying, police said, and McCarthy and others who spoke at the press conference emphasized the need for help from the public.
“We have some significant leads in this case … we still need more help,” McCarthy said.
The police Memorial Foundation is offering a $10,000 cash reward for information leading to an arrest; call 1-888-YPO-SHOT (976-7468). The foundation’s representative at the press conference said it is giving Lewis’ family a $50,000 check in coming days.
"It’s an assault on the entire community and it shocks every time it happens," McCarthy said of the shooting.
Lewis, who McCarthy said has received 81 commendations for his police work, had proposed to his girlfriend, Tamara Tucker, only after asking her 18-year-old son, Keyonta Thomas, for permission. On Christmas morning, Lewis pulled her son aside and asked for her "hand in marriage," said Thomas, 18.
"I am just at a loss for words," said Thomas, who said he saw Lewis as a father.
"He was just as a father (to me). … He took me in as his child."
Ron Tucker, Tamara’s father, also mentioned that the couple had just gotten engaged Christmas Day.
"He was quiet. He was wonderful. That’s all I’ve got to say," Tucker said outside the officer’s home. "He was always helping out. He was working the force. He was just … a good guy."
Of the closeness to Lewis, Tucker said, "we were all family." The two had been together for eight years.
"All I know, I saw the ring and said, ‘Thank God they’re getting married,’ " Tucker said with a chuckle.
As for Lewis’ fiancee, 38, Tucker said this: "Right now, she’s a total breakdown. But she’s got to pull it together, though."
Tucker also said Lewis had a daughter, who was a "wonderful little girl."
As rain fell, officers raised a black and purple mourning flag today outside the Austin District station where Lewis worked. Officers said Lewis’ death leaves a great void and described him as a "gentle giant," a good officer who didn’t raise his voice, and truly cared about the community.
"He treated people the way he wanted to be treated," said Officer Jones, who said she didn’t want to give her first name because she lives in the neighborhood.
Still, Lewis’ death served as a reminder of the dangers of working in law enforcement, she said.
"My 20 years on the job, I’ve had five friends killed," said the officer, as she motioned to a wall with plaques commemorating other fallen officers. "Don’t get me wrong. I love my job, but we are not supposed to die. We put our lives on the line to make sure other people don’t die."
"How can you take a man’s life for a couple of dollars?"
Officer Toni Granado said Lewis was "very humble, professional, very modest."
Lewis was always very respectful to citizens, said Granado, who said they have worked together as plain clothes officers on a team that targets narcotics.
"Him being a big guy, he knew his capability but he was level-headed," she said.
He was known for caring about other officers and recognizing when something was bothering them. He asked about their families and was generous with hugs, she said.
"A lot of us refer to him as the gentle giant," said Granado, who has worked at the Austin District for six years.
One thing Granado said she is going to miss about Lewis, a man she described as tall, good-looking and clean-shaven, is his voice.
"He had this very deep, kind of Earl Jones voice," she said.
Granado said he played basketball with the Chicago Police Department and was "into church."
The front of Lewis’ white-with-beige trim single-family home is surrounded by a black, wrought-iron gate.
One of Lewis’ neighbors, Anjelica Carlton, walked in front of Lewis’ home to drop off some replica roses and a candle in front of the gate to show respect to the fallen officer.
She said she used to be scared of his two pit bulls, but remembers fondly how Lewis reassured her his dogs were friendly.
"He was like, ‘Oh, my dogs aren’t going to do anything to you.’ And I was like, ‘Can I touch them?’ And he let me touch them. … So I wasn’t afraid of his dogs anymore," Carlton said.
A humorous sign in the window of Lewis’ home reads: "DANGER. DON’T BE AFRAID OF THE DOG. BE AFRAID OF THE OWNER."
Donald Page, who lives two houses down from Lewis in the Austin neighborhood, greeted him when he moved in about two years ago.
"Over the few years he’d been over here we got real close," said Page, 64. "By him being a police officer, he kept us abreast of what was going on in the Austin District, and we kept him abreast of what was going on right here on our block so we can have it nice and peaceful like it is now."
Page described Lewis as "a real caring individual."
"There’s not many people like that," Page said. "He cared about everybody."
Page first learned of Lewis’ death when he was watching the TV news early this morning.
"When they mentioned his name as the officer being shot, I was no good after that," Page said, shortly before he spoke with four other officers standing outside Lewis’ home.
During the news conference today at the Austin District, some top police officials spoke about Lewis.
While commander in the Austin District, now-First Deputy Superintendent Alfonza Wysinger was Lewis’ boss. Tears welled up in his eyes as he spoke about the slain officer:
"Our prayers are with the Lewis family. Cliff was not only a great police officer, but a great person. I had the privilege to bring him over to the 15th District when I was the commander here, to work for me on the tactical team that he worked for until he passed last night.
"Gentle giant. Courageous heart. Loved his family. Loved this community. Always gave 110 percent. I ask you, citizens of Chicago and especially the citizens of the community of Austin to assist us in bringing these perpetrators to justice
"Cliff was a great man. Cliff was a great police officer. … He was loved not only by the police department but his community, his fellow co-workers, and he should’ve had to die like that. So I’m asking you a personal favor to help us bring perpetrators to justice."
Current Austin District Cmdr. Walter Green echoed the feelings:
"As the First Deputy said, Cliff was like a gentle giant. There’s not one person here who had one bad word to say about him. (He never had a bad) word to say about anybody else.
"This crime shocks us. It should shock everybody out here who saw this happen. We’re not going to rest until we find out who did this to our family member, because the police department is one big family in blue.
"And all I can say is that I hope the community is as insulted as we are that this would happen in such a cold and blatant manner. … I can’t call the person who did this a man because he’s not. (He’s) more like an animal doing something and we will catch this person with the assistance of all the people out here."
After the news conference, Lewis’ partner, Officer Calvin Jones, described the fallen officer as a brother and friend. Jones said he and Lewis were partners for 3 1/2 years.
"All I can say … I’m going to miss him," Jones said.
He said Lewis played for the Austin District’s basketball team, standing about 6-foot-5 or 6-foot-6.
"He was very competitive," Jones said.
When asked if there were any situations where Lewis saved his life, Jones replied: "We save each other’s life every day. If we go home together, we’re doing OK."
One of Lewis’ supervisors, Sgt. Wilfredo Roman, said: "I’m sure many people have commented, he’s a big teddy bear. Everybody loved him. He spoke to everyone. He was a great person to work with. … If anyone needed him, he was there."
A press release today from the office of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel described the shooting as "tragic and senseless."
The full text of the release said:
"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."
Even though Lewis was off duty and working a second job, McCarthy said he acted in his official capacity as a Chicago police officer when drawing his weapon and encountering the offenders.
His slaying is considered a "line-of-duty" death by the Chicago Police Department, according to a police spokeswoman.