Off-duty police officer fatally shot during robbery at grocery store

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Chicago Police climb a ladder to get onto the roof of the M and M Quick Foods grocery store at 1201 N. Austin, Chicago, where a store security guard, an off-duty police officer was shot and later died at the hospital. | Dom Najolia~Sun-Times

Chicago Police Officer Clifton Lewis, slain Thursday night while working a security sidejob at a West Side store, was being remembered Friday morning as a good guy and a good neighbor.

“I felt much safer with him on the block,” neighbor Derry “Blue” Chambliss said. “He went to work. He came home and he walked his dogs – two pit bulls, a black one and a white one. He was a good neighbor. … Man, he was OK.

“I saw him yesterday getting his mail in the afternoon. I said, ‘Hey, Cliff.’ He said ‘Hey, Blue.’ ”

Lewis, 41, lived on the West Side with his fiance, about a mile from the M&M Quick Foods at Austin and Division where he was slain at about 8:30 p.m. Thursday. The Austin District tactical unit officer was off-duty at the time, working security at a store that had been robbed just weeks before.

Lewis, an eight year veteran, died at Stroger Hospital, officials said. Several of Lewis’ family members, including his mother, were at Stroger.

He was shot multiple times and police have not located his gun, officials said.

No one was in custody Friday morning, police said.

John Waynes, 18, was inside the store with his friend, Darrell Davis, moments before Thursday’s shooting. Waynes said he heard shouting between what appeared to be security and a customer.

“We saw the guy – he was arguing with the officer, but we just wanted to get out,” Waynes said.

Waynes said he and Davis feared for their safety.

Moments after the two left the store, they heard gunshots. Waynes described it as “automatic gunfire.”

Jerod Dent, 25, who lives near the store, said the officer had just been hired about a week ago after the store was robbed about three weeks earlier.

Several neighbors living near the store, which is near Oak Park, described the area as generally safe.

“We’ve never had any problems,” said Keller Weiss, who lives in a nearby condo with her husband, Steve Weiss. “This isn’t that bad. It’s actually very quiet.”

On Lewis’ block, neighbor Tony Ray, a 35-year-old musician, said Lewis was a big Bulls fan – and a big Derrick Rose fan.

Ray and Lewis lamented the NBA lockout that dragged out through the summer, and Ray said Lewis was excited when it finally ended, meaning his beloved Bulls would be back.

“It’s sad that the lockout just ended, but now his life is over,” Ray said.

Lewis and his fiance moved into the 1 1/2-story white stucco home over the summer and fixed it up. Ray said Lewis decorated it for Christmas – the red and silver tinsel still lines the black wrought iron fence guarding the front of his home.

A sign in Lewis’ front window reads: “Don’t be afraid of the dog. Be afraid of the owner.”

Ray said Lewis was a likable, good neighbor.

“He didn’t come off like ‘I’m the police,’ make himself known as an authority. He was not arrogant or anything. He was a cool guy,” Ray said.

Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy went to Stroger Thursday night after the shooting.

He did not address the media, but the department said in a statement that McCarthy and the entire force “extend their sincere condolences to the officer’s family and friends, and ask that he and his family be remembered in your prayers.”

The last Chicago officer shot and killed was Michael Flisk, who was killed Nov. 26, 2010, while processing a crime scene from a burglary.

Contributing: LeeAnn Shelton

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