Community Pays Last Respects To Fallen Officer
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UPDATED 01/05/12 – 5:38 p.m.
CHICAGO (CBS) — Chicago Police officers said goodbye Thursday to a beloved colleague, Officer Clifton Lewis, who was gunned down at age 41 a week ago.
As CBS 2’s Susanna Song reports, Lewis, 41, was killed on the night of Dec. 29, while working his second job as a security guard at the M & M Quick Foods convenience store, at 1201 N. Austin Blvd. on the city’s West Side.
Lewis received 81 commendations in his eight years on the force, but his biggest honor was undoubtedly the genuine sorrow evidenced by the men and women with whom he served.
Hundreds of police officers joined Lewis’ family, friends, and neighbors at the United Baptist Church, 4242 W. Roosevelt Rd., for his funeral Thursday morning, remembering him as a “gentle giant.”
LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Steve Miller reports
As CBS 2′s Derrick Blakley reports, the service focused a spotlight on Lewis’ commitment to his neighborhood, his colleagues, and his loved ones.
Lewis’ coffin was draped in a Chicago flag and the Shannon Rovers played bagpipes as the casket was brought into the church.
Lewis had proposed to his fiancée, Tamara Latrice Tucker, on Christmas Day, just four days before he was killed.
In eulogizing her late fiancé, Tucker said his mother, Maxine Hooks, never wanted her son to be cop.
“She cried when Clifton said, ‘Mom, I’m going to join the Police Department. And she said, ‘I don’t want you to do that,’” Tucker said.
But she emphasized the day wasn’t all about sorrow.
“Today, we’re not sharing the fact that Clifton is gone, we’re sharing the fact that Clifton had a life. Clifton lived a life,” Tucker said.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel and police Supt. Garry McCarthy also were among those who spoke at Lewis’ funeral.
Emanuel and McCarthy consoled Lewis’ family, praising both his sacrifice and the kindness that belied his imposing 6-foot-5 frame.
“The strength of his commitment, the scope of his courage, the consistency of his character; it is these qualities that make Officer Lewis a giant of us all,” Emanuel said.
“Evil does exist,” McCarthy said. The faith of our officers stares down that evil.”
McCarthy also said the fallen officer’s “dedication, conscientiousness and courage took him through.”
He also said he admired the faith of Lewis’ mother, Maxine, which kept her from becoming angry and bitter over the incident.
“I stopped trying to make sense of the unspeakable acts that we witness on a daily basis a long time ago, realizing that it is up to the will of God,” McCarthy said, “and that very clearly is where Maxine’s faith rests.”
Emanuel became choked up as he spoke of the fallen officer.
“Whether you speak to his commander, his partner or his neighbors, it was Lewis’ quiet humility, his comforting authority, his calm confidence, that defined an officer, father and friend we say goodbye to today,” the mayor said.
Earlier, Lewis’ body arrived at the church surrounded by a sea of blue just before 9 a.m. Thursday.
After a salute, fellow police comrades carried his casket inside, followed by his family not able to hold back tears.
McCarthy later told reporters that police continued to interview people in connection with the officer’s slaying, but he refuted media reports that anyone had been charged or taken into custody.
“When we have it, we will tell you,” he told reporters Thursday evening. “We don’t have it.”
Throughout services for Lewis, Chicago Police officers, friends and family arrived to pay their respects, and wore a button in his memory.
In a tribute to officer Lewis, his family shared pictures of his life – from his youth playing football to graduations.
Lewis joined the Chicago Police Department in April 2003, and for eight years, he loved his job, according to his obituary. Most recently, he patrolled the Austin District as part of the tactical team.
“He used to be up at the Douglas High School in the Austin area. He was really funny. He always used to get the kids off the street when they got out of school – ‘Go home! Go home! Go home!’ He was a real nice guy,” said Austin resident Sandra Pitts, “and I just wanted to come and pay my respects from the Austin area, because I used to live over there and see him all the time.
On Wednesday, teams of Chicago Police officers went door-to-door in the West Side’s Austin neighborhood looking for clues in hopes of apprehending the two masked men who robbed the store and took Lewis’ life.
Sources said Lewis had been hired following another robbery three months earlier.
“I saw on the news he was going to get married. He took on a second job to better himself and his family. For him to get took out like that, it’s messed up,” said Larry Casey, who came to pay his respects.
The total reward for finding Lewis’ killer is now up to $34,000. It includes $21,000 from the Police Memorial Foundation, $11,000 from the Chicago Fraternal Order of Police, and $2,000 from several West Side churches, led by Rev. Ira Acree.