Family, friends and colleagues will gather Thursday to pay tribute to slain Austin cop Clifton Lewis, who was shot during an attempted robbery Dec. 29, while working a part-time security job at a neighborhood grocery store.
The two offenders remain at large. A reward fund to find the person who killed Lewis has grown to $13,000. Lewis, 41, was working his off-duty security job at M&M Foods, 1201 N. Austin, when two armed men wearing masks entered at around 8:30 p.m. in an attempted robbery.
A day after the shooting, Chicago Police Department Supt. Garry McCarthy addressed the media at a press conference Dec. 30, at 15th District headquarters, 5701 W. Madison, where Lewis worked. The Chicago Police Memorial Foundation (CPMF) has offered $11,000 for information leading to the arrests, and community leaders and ministers have pooled another $2,000, according to the Chicago Tribune.
Lewis, an 8-year veteran of the department, was assigned to the 15th District Tactical Team. According to McCarthy, Lewis drew his weapon before he was shot by one of the offenders. Lewis was taken to Stroger Hospital, where he died. The offenders fled the scene.
Police are investigating “some significant leads” in the case, McCarthy said, including surveillance video from the store. It appears from the video that the offenders had a handgun and another gun, possibly an assault weapon. Police, McCarthy said, need the public’s help to find the offenders.
Both of the offenders, he added, were armed, one with a pistol and the other a weapon that appeared on video to be a TEC-9. He also said 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 to the Chicago Tribune. “Both offenders were wearing masks when they entered the location. One of the two offenders immediately turned and started firing at Officer Lewis. Officer Lewis engaged that individual … and was subsequently murdered.”
Others praised Lewis at last Friday’s press conference at the 15th Dist. station.
First Deputy Supt. Al Wysinger, the 15th Dist.’s former commander, called Lewis a gentle giant with a courageous heart. He joined Ald. Deborah Graham (29th Ward) and other police officials in asking residents of Austin and Oak Park to come forward with any information.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel released a statement, Dec. 30, calling Lewis’ death a “tragic and senseless loss” for his family, his colleagues and for the city of Chicago.
“Officer Lewis died as he had lived, serving and protecting his community,” Emanuel said. “His courage and sense of duty to the city are examples for us all.”
Lewis, an Austin resident, left behind a young daughter, a fiance, a loving family and many close friends, according to a statement from the CPMF. He had proposed to his longtime girlfriend on Christmas Day.
Activists, clergymen and community leaders gathered in the convenience store’s parking lot on New Year’s Eve Dec. 31, to urge local residents to refrain from shooting off fireworks and guns in celebration of the coming year.
The Austin Community Safety Network said it “wishes to compel the community to participate in a collective silence” in honor of Lewis.
Just hours after his death, Rev. Ira Acree, pastor of Greater St. John Bible Church, told CBS News, “This person is a well-respected officer. I had police officers who go to my church call me right away, very traumatized.”
“This is a good man,” Acree added. “This is a person who serves and protects. He lost his life tonight trying to serve and protect our community. It is so sad.”