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74-Year-Old Man, Deacon At Church, Shot To Death In South Shore

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UPDATED: 12/19/2013 4 p.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) – Parishioners at St. Phillip Neri Church are mourning the death of a mentor and deacon.

Willie Cooper, 74, was found shot to death early this morning in the South Shore neighborhood.

Deacon Cooper was found in a vehicle with multiple gunshot wounds about 4:45 a.m. in the 7000 block of South East End Avenue, according to police news affairs.

Cooper worked at the Aries Bus Co., and was on his way to work, following his usual routine, according to his friend, Steve Herron.

He pulled up to pick up Herron, who also is Cooper’s co-worker.

That’s when Cooper was ambushed by a group of men and gunned down inside his car.

Herron told CBS 2’s Courtney Gousman that he was just about to walk out of his home and jump into the car when he heard gunshots.

“Everybody on the block heard those gunshots,” Herron said. “They killed my friend, gangland style, Bonnie and Clyde, a 74 year old man.

“His car ran into the gate. They didn’t give him a chance to put the car in park. They killed this man for a car. It wasn’t even a new car. Nothing fancy. Just a car.”

St. Phillip Neri pastor Thomas Belanger said Cooper was a deacon of the Catholic Church, a riveting preacher who spent his days reaching out to the home-bound and mentoring young men from elementary through high school.

Father Belanger said he learned that Cooper was waiting in his car for a friend when witnesses heard several shots and found Cooper lifeless in the front seat of his car, an apparent victim of a carjacking attempt the followed a nearby murder.

“His passion, his love was for the children of Chicago, especially for our young men,” Belanger said. “He was a great mentor. He really was a man with vision, with Christ at the center of his life.”

He was dead at the scene, according to the Cook County Medical Examiner’s office.

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