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For ex-gangster promoting peace, brother’s killing has Gator Bradley practicing what he preaches

‘Vengeance belongs to God,’ Wallace ‘Gator’ Bradley says of half-brother killed Aug. 5 at a South Side used-car dealership while trying to collect a gambling debt.

James Kelley (in red) with his half brother Wallace “Gator” Bradley (far right).
James Kelley (in red) with his half brother Wallace “Gator” Bradley (far right).
Provided

With the surge of killings this year in Chicago, Wallace “Gator” Bradley is keeping busy.

The former enforcer for the Gangster Disciples says he’s been using his influence on the streets to ask people to turn in suspects in the killings of children, women and the elderly, abiding by what he calls “the Code.” And he’s been telling the gangs to refrain from seeking revenge for those killings.

On Aug. 5, the violence struck home for Bradley. His half-brother James Kelley, 72, was shot to death at a used-car dealership on the South Side.

As he lay dying, prosecutors say Kelley told paramedics and police he was killed by Willie Dunmore, the 79-year-old owner of the car lot at 73rd and Stony Island. Kelley had gone there to collect an old gambling debt and was shot in the back, according to prosecutors.

Willie Dunmore.
Willie Dunmore.
Chicago Police Department

Dunmore was arrested and charged with first-degree murder. Prosecutors asked the judge to keep him in jail, but he was freed after posting $20,000 bail.

This past Monday, Kelley’s family held his funeral in Gary, where he lived.

At times choking back tears, Bradley spoke to the congregation. In a video of the funeral, he acknowledged the pain the killing is causing him but said he needs to practice what he preaches, rejecting offers he said he got from people willing to exact revenge for his brother’s killing.

“I’ve gotten calls from all across the country speaking to the Gator of yesteryear: ‘What are we gonna do, and how are we gonna do it?’

“I say, ‘Vengeance belongs to God,’ ” he told the funeral-goers.

Only six days before he was killed — on July 29 — Kelley was freed from federal prison under the First Step Act, which allows the “compassionate release” of elderly inmates. Kelley had told a judge he feared he could die if he contracted the coronavirus in prison in Terre Haute, Indiana.

He was serving a 143-year sentence for trafficking at least 10 kilos of heroin between 2009 and 2012 and was scheduled to be paroled in 2022.

Kelley and Dunmore had known each other for more than 40 years.

According to prosecutors, Kelley visited Dunmore at his car lot on the afternoon of Aug. 5 while a friend of Kelley sat in the car.

After the shooting, Dunmore, who knew Kelley’s friend, told him, “I shot the m-----f-----. It’s over now, and he is dead on the floor,” according to the narrative a Cook County prosecutor gave at Dunmore’s bail hearing.

Dunmore called 911 to report the shooting. He said the shooter was still on the scene, but didn’t identify himself as the shooter or claim self-defense, prosecutors say.

Kelley survived long enough to tell paramedics Dunmore was the killer. Then, at the hospital, he told police that Dunmore shot him as he was walking out of his office.

Dunmore told the police he and Kelley struggled over a gun and that it went off accidentally, authorities say. Police said they found gunshot residue on Dunmore but didn’t find a gun at the scene of the shooting.

Bradley says he wants justice served on whoever removed the gun from the car dealership.

In addition to his used-car lot, Dunmore owns two single-occupancy hotels on the West Side that have drawn scrutiny from police and pastors in recent years because of the many people who’ve died of heroin overdoses there.

Dunmore’s Auto Sales, 7320 S. Stony Island Ave., where James Kelley was shot to death on Aug. 5.
Dunmore’s Auto Sales, 7320 S. Stony Island Ave., where James Kelley was shot to death on Aug. 5.
Google maps

Kelley was known around his neighborhood in Gary for teaching children chess at a Boys & Girls Club and supporting youth sports teams, according to letters of support sent to the judge before he was sentenced in 2014 for heroin trafficking. Others wrote that Kelley helped pay for students’ college tuition. Former cops, teachers and a corporate CEO were among those who wrote on his behalf.

Bradley says his half-brother grew up in the housing projects in Gary, where “he was wondering how he was going to eat. That’s why he gave.”

Bradley says he thinks his brother “let his guard down” before he was shot in the back.

“There are certain lines you just don’t cross,” he says of the shooting.

But Bradley, whose criminal record was wiped clean in 1989 with a pardon from then-Gov. James Thompson, says he’s turned his back on street justice. He and community activist Andrew Holmes, whose daughter was shot to death in 2015, were honored by the Chicago City Council in 2014 for their community involvement and have worked together this summer to try to stop the surge of killings.

“We’re going from revenge to apprehension, which allows the community and law enforcement to work together,” Bradley says. “That’s why [Dunmore] should get a fair trial.”

Dunmore’s attorney Steve Greenberg responded, “I hope that everyone will let the case be played out in the courts.”