UPDATED 12/30/11 4:45 p.m.
CHICAGO (CBS) –– An off-duty Chicago Police officer is the latest victim of gun violence in Chicago, shot and killed at a North Austin neighborhood convenience store where he was working security.
Officer Clifton Lewis, 41, was in the M & M Quick Foods, at 1201 N. Austin Blvd. on the border between Chicago and Oak Park, when he was fatally wounded about 8:30 p.m., according to police.
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Chicago Police Superintendent says two masked, armed men entered the store, and one of them immediately began firing. He said Lewis, who was behind counter, was hit. One of the offenders was believed to be carrying a “Tec-9” semiautomatic, McCarthy said.
Lewis died from multiple gunshot wounds, according to the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office.
“We have some significant leads in this case, and we’ve received enormous community support thus far,” McCarthy said at a Friday news conference. “But we’re here today to advertise that we still need more help.”
A $10,000 reward for information leading to arrests and convictions is being offered by the Chicago Police Memorial Foundation. A tip line has been set up to field calls at (888) 976-7468.
“We’re going to ensure that the people who committed this horrendous crime are arrested and brought to justice,” McCarthy said. “Because, while it shocks our sensibilities, the fact is, stone-cold killers existing in our society, in our community, present an enormous danger.”
The slain officer’s gun and badge were taken, sources told CBS 2. Asked about the information, McCarthy replied: “We’ve recovered much of the officer’s property, not everything.”
Police are looking into a recent incident at the store. In that case, another off-duty officer acting as a security guard fired shots at two would-be robbers as they fled.
McCarthy says investigators are considering the possibility that this week’s shooting was retaliation.
Scores of police officers immediately rushed to the crime scene late Thursday. Officer Lewis was rushed to Stroger Hospital of Cook County, where he was pronounced dead at about 9:30 p.m. Later, about 40 police cars with blue lights flashing escorted the slain officer’s body to the medical examiner’s office.
Lewis was an eight-year Chicago police veteran. He was assigned to the Austin District Tactical Unit.
“I can’t call the person who did this a man, because he’s not – (he’s) more like an animal,” Chicago Police Cmd. Walter Green said of Lewis’s killer.
“This person is a well-respected officer. I had police officers who go to my church call me right away, very traumatized,” said the Rev. Ira Acree, pastor of the nearby Greater St. John Bible Church. “This is a good man. This is a person who serves and protects. He lost his life tonight trying to serve and protect our community. It is so sad.”
Acree told CBS 2’s Kristyn Hartman that police officers who attend his church, at 1256 N. Waller Ave., told him Lewis was newly engaged and had just purchased a house.
Community activist Andrew Holmes says neighbors knew and respected Officer Lewis.
“It’s tough. It’s tough for me just to stand here and just to speak on this situation because, you know, he was human. He worked. He helped. He enhanced life over here. He was well-liked in this community,” Holmes said.
On Friday morning, residents who shop at the store and live nearby say Officer Lewis was someone they personally trusted.
“The time I met him, he was a great guy,” said neighbor David Townsend. “He was respectful. He wasn’t a hard, tough guy to get on you. He was respectful. He was down-to-earth.”
But neighbors say even an off-duty police officer was not safe at the store where he was working.
“One guy and no backup – two against one – what are you going to do?” Townsend said. “A lot of people go in there, they don’t even know what’s going to happen.”
Holmes said the recent holdup was the very reason why Officer Lewis was hired as a security guard at the convenience store.
Nearly 12 hours after the deadly shooting, police wrapped up their work at the store, where they had been combing for evidence and looking for surveillance video. Police also interviewed the owner for most of the night.
The owner did not want to talk on camera, but said he has handed over surveillance video.
The Chicago Police Memorial Foundation will present Lewis’s family with a check for $50,000 to ease its financial burden, project manager John Gordon said.