A Northwest Side man was ordered held without bail Saturday on charges he shot a Chicago firefighter who was responding to a car fire last weekend in the Albany Park neighborhood.
Hollis Williams, 29, faces multiple felony counts including aggravated battery of a firefighter, aggravated battery of a police officer and unlawful use of a weapon by a felon, in addition to multiple traffic violations.
Announcing the charges against Williams, interim CPD Supt. Charlie Beck called the Feb. 2 shooting “an attack on the whole fabric of society,” but a defense attorney insisted the firefighter was hit by a stray bullet from shots that were fired in self-defense.
It started about 1 a.m. last Sunday when two people in a light-colored vehicle pulled up to a Chrysler 300 in the 3300 block of West Wilson, doused it in lighter fluid and set it on fire, Cook County prosecutors said at Williams’ hearing.
The Chrysler’s owner was in the ground-floor apartment across the street with Williams and a woman when they heard a commotion, went outside and saw the Chicago Fire Department responding to the car fire, prosecutors said.
While firefighters tried to put out the blaze, the woman in Williams’ group went to move her vehicle, which was parked behind the burning Chrysler, but the two people who were still driving around in the light-colored vehicle fired shots at her, prosecutors said. Williams and the Chrysler’s owner allegedly fired back at them.
Firefighters heard the gunfire and took cover, but a 36-year-old fireman caught in the crossfire was hit in the left leg, prosecutors said. He was stabilized at Illinois Masonic Medical Center.
Williams, the Chrysler’s owner and the woman ran away, but three guns were found in the apartment near the scene, prosecutors said.
An undercover operation led detectives to Williams, who was pulled over late Thursday in the 2800 block of West Irving Park Road, police said.
When officers tried to arrest Williams, he rammed a CPD sergeant’s car and ran over an officer’s foot while fleeing the stop, prosecutors said. Williams eventually ditched his own vehicle and tossed a handgun before officers chased him down on foot and arrested him.
The wounded firefighter has since been released from the hospital and is in “good spirits,” Chicago Fire Department Commissioner Richard Ford II said.
Attorney Joshua Kutnick represented Williams, who appeared at his bail hearing Saturday wearing an unzipped black hoodie over a white T-shirt and blue jeans.
Kutnick said Williams is a father of six children ranging from a month old to 14, and that he has worked unloading freezer trucks for the last two years. Two women who Kutnick said were Williams’ relatives attended the bail hearing, but declined to speak with reporters.
Kutnick requested that bail be set at $150,000 for Williams, arguing the shots would have been fired in self-defense.
“All parties can agree the firefighter wasn’t the intended target,” Kutnick said. “The other individuals are the real criminals in this case.”
Judge Susana Ortiz said the allegations against Williams posed a “real and present threat to the community” and ordered him held without bail.
No one else was in custody from the chaotic scene on Wilson as of Saturday, but police said they know who they’re looking for.
“There is an unspoken contract between a community and its firefighters and police officers that says if you put your lives forward to protect ours, we will in turn protect you,” Beck said. “So whenever a public safety employee, particularly a firefighter, is attacked, we not only take it very seriously, but we look at it as an attack on the whole fabric of society.”
Williams was convicted of drug possession in May 2016 and sentenced to 15 months in state prison, according to Cook County court records. He also faced weapons charges in 2013, but was found not guilty in a bench trial.
He’s due back in court Thursday.