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Retired firefighter killed while exchanging gunfire with would-be carjackers on Far South Side

Dwain Williams, 65, was on 118th Street when four suspects approached and tried to take his vehicle, officials say.

Chicago firefighters salute as the procession carrying the remains of retired firefighter Dwain Williams arrives at the Cook County medical examiners office, after Williams was shot and killed in the Morgan Park neighborhood, Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020.
Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

A retired Chicago firefighter was fatally shot during an exchange of gunfire with would-be carjackers Thursday afternoon in Morgan Park on the Far South Side, police said.

Dwain Williams, 65, had left a popcorn shop, Lets Get Poppin’, at 11758 S. Western Ave., and walked to his vehicle when a dark-colored sedan pulled up and four men got out, authorities said.

There was an exchange of gunfire, and Williams, who lived in the Longwood Manor neighborhood, was shot in the abdomen, authorities said. He was taken to Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, where he was pronounced dead. An autopsy ruled his death a homicide.

Retired Chicago firefighter Dwain Williams was shot and killed during an attempted carjacking on Dec. 3, 2020.
Provided photo/Andrew Holmes

Williams was a lieutenant who retired from the Fire Department about two years ago after joining in 1992, according to Chicago Fire Department spokesman Larry Langford.

His final assignment was with the Office of Emergency Management and Communications, where he was going to return to work as a civilian employee as soon as next week because “he really loved working in that environment,” Langford said.

Speaking at the scene, Southwest Side Ald. Matt O’Shea (19th) said Williams was a decorated member of the fire department.

“I can tell you he was a hero,” O’Shea said. “He spent his entire career working hard as a first responder for our great city. What a tremendous loss.”

The suspects were last seen fleeing west on 118th Street in the sedan, police said. It wasn’t immediately clear if any of them had been shot.

Community activist Andrew Holmes said the William’s wife and four children have been left “traumatized” by his seemingly random killing.

“His wife, she just wants her husband,” Holmes said. “That was her soul mate for over 30 years.”

“They’re trying to make sense of it, which it doesn’t make any sense,” Holmes said. “Why would you just take his life? If you wanted the car — this is one thing his whole family said — he would’ve gave you that car, keys and all.”

After Williams dedicated his career to saving lives, Holmes added, “all of a sudden, people take his.”

The shooting comes amid a spike in carjackings across the city. Chicago police have responded to 1,229 carjackings this year through Nov. 22, more than double the 514 carjackings in Chicago in all of 2019, according to data obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times.

“The Chicago Police Department is well aware of the increase in vehicle hijackings; we’re doing our best right now to increase the capabilities of our citywide task force,” Chicago Police Chief of Operations Brian McDermott said at a news conference at the scene.

Earlier in the year, another deadly shooting took place at a restaurant just blocks away.

One person was killed and four other people were wounded in August when someone opened fire at a man who was dining at Lumes Pancake House, 11601 S. Western Ave.

McDermott assured residents that the department was doing everything it could to curb violence in the neighborhood.

“The message is we hear their concerns loud and clear, and that we understand the fears that they’re going through,” he said. “We all have people that we know that live in this community that shouldn’t have to live in fear.”

Read more on crime, and track the city’s homicides.