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Retired Firefighter Dwain Williams, 65, Shot Dead During Carjacking Attempt In Morgan Park

CHICAGO (CBS) -- A retired Chicago Fire lieutenant was shot and killed Thursday afternoon during a carjacking attempt in Morgan Park.

As CBS 2's Jermont Terry reported, police early Thursday night were looking for clues in the murder of retired fire Lt. Dwain Williams, and also for the four men involved in the terrible crime.

Around 2 p.m., Williams, 65, was leaving the Let's Get Poppin popcorn store at 11758 S. Western Ave. and was walking to his vehicle, when a four-door dark-colored sedan pulled up and four men got out and bum rushed him, according to Chicago Police Chief of Operations Brian McDermott.

The men tried to take the Williams' vehicle -- a maroon Jeep Cherokee with festive reindeer antlers attached to it -- and one of the assailants took out a gun and fired at least one shot, striking the victim in the abdomen, police said.

Williams had his own gun and fired at the assailants, but his wound proved fatal. He was taken to Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, where he was pronounced dead at 2:45 p.m., McDermott said.

The Fire Department said Williams retired two years ago after 26 years of service.

Williams' last assignment was at the Office of Emergency Management and Communications.

Lt. Dwain Williams
Lt. Dwain Williams (Credit: Chicago Fire Department)

Lt. Williams was described as a caring man who spent much of his time on the Chicago Fire Department at the Engine 122 firehouse at 79th Street and Michigan Avenue.

His murder left not only his family devastated, but his fellow firefighters too.

Holding back tears, friend and fellow retired firefighter William Marshall struggled to come to terms with the fact that Williams, his longtime friend, was gone.

"I've known Dwain since we were kids," Marshall said. "We grew up together."

And they worked together at the same firehouse for years as Chicago firefighters. The two expected to enjoy years of retirement.

"Many people that know him from the department would tell you that he had a very kind spirit," Marshall said.

Marshall said the Williams would have given up the vehicle.

"We spoke on a subject like that before," he said. "He would have gave it to them."

"He has saved lives out here in the work he has done. Now why would you take his life?" said friend and community activist Andrew Holmes.

Upon learning of the shooting in Morgan Park, Marshall rushed to Williams' house.

"I came over here to speak to his wife, who I know very well, about it. She didn't know. She did not know. She tried to call him at that moment," Marshall said. "That's when the reporting officers came up, and it was then that reality set in."

A loving husband of 30 years and a father two four has been taken away. Is years of service were honored through a processional from Advocate Christ Medical Center – with full escort – the awaiting brothers and sisters from Chicago's Bravest at the Cook County Medical Examiner's office.

It was not clear if any of the Williams' bullets hit the assailants, but they took off west on 118th Street in the sedan, McDermott said.

Lt. Williams, despite being retired, served his city proudly and ultimately died on its streets.

Police have not released any description of the carjackers. It was not known if they fled on foot or in a car.

Area Two detectives were on the scene canvassing Thursday night. Police are reviewing several surveillance cameras in the area.

"If indeed you get a call that they're looking for your son, your nephew, help them. Give the detectives the information where they're at - because it was wrong," Holmes said. "It was wrong."

Williams' family stressed they know that someone knows something, and they are urging whoever that is to give his widow some kind of closure and rest.

A Carjacking Crisis In Chicago
Carjackings have been plaguing the entire city in recent weeks.

On Tuesday, a 19-year-old man was charged with carjacking a driver in the parking lot of a Jewel-Osco store in Wicker Park last week, just five days after he was released on previous misdemeanor charges. Chicago Police said Quitone Nash, of Markham, was arrested early Friday morning, after officers spotted him at a gas station in Englewood, driving the same vehicle that had been stolen in the carjacking in Wicker Park just hours earlier in the parking lot of a Jewel-Osco store at the corner of Milwaukee Avenue and Paulina Street.

That incident was not believed to be related to other recent carjackings in Lakeview and Bucktown, or another carjacking one day later a couple blocks away in Wicker Park.

Shortly after 8 a.m. Saturday, a 38-year-old man was stopped at a red light in his black 2019 Audi A5 sedan at the six-way intersection of Damen, Milwaukee, and North avenues, when two men stopped in front of him, got out of their vehicle, and demanded his car at gunpoint. He got out and let them have the car, police said.

The suspects fled northwest on Milwaukee Avenue in the victims' car, followed by a Jeep, police said.

In that incident, police said the driver was left unharmed. We cannot say the same for other victims of recent carjackings in Chicago.

Earlier last week, CBS 2's Charlie De Mar met Luv Randhawa, who was the victim of an attempted carjacking right in the middle of the Loop.

"I am injured from my leg and my chest," Randhawa said. "They put the gun on my chest and they were hitting it. There were four or five people."

Randhawa, from Las Vegas, was in the driver's seat of his car when he parked with his buddy and popped into a Starbucks for a cup of coffee near State and Lake streets on Monday evening. Within just seconds, a group of teens went in with guns and attacked the man.

"They were trying to take this car," Randhawa said Monday. "This car is rental."

Randhawa fought off a group of teens who not only tried taking his rental car, but also his life.

"He pulled the trigger out. Something pops out," Randhawa said. "The bullet pops out, so the gun got latched."

The suspects in that case were caught a short time later.

Also last week, a red four-door Audi was stolen at gunpoint in the 1400 block of West Wolfram Street. It is believed to be part of a series of carjackings in Lakeview and Bucktown.

While the woman in the Lakeview incident was safe, there was another attempted in a carjacking hours later early Tuesday morning in Bucktown. And it happened that the suspects pulled up in a red Audi just like the one that was stolen on Wolfram Street.

Two men jumped out of the Audi and tried to steal a Porsche as Tina Ariola and daughter pulled into their driveway. When Tina's husband, Dave, walked out, they shot him and jumped back in the same red Audi. CBS 2's Jermont Terry talked with the victims of that carjacking on Wednesday.

"I was trying to stay very calm," Tina Ariola said. "I was very angry, but I was going to comply."

In surveillance video, you can hear Tina's daughter tell her mom to follow the gunman's demands. The gunman took their cellphones, wallet, and car keys. The thief then reverses, thinking the carjacking is a done deal. But those earlier screams forced Dave Ariola to come running out to the alley.

"I was literally sitting on the couch in my underwear and T-shirt," Dave Ariola said. "I never made it over the fence. I was inside the yard."

The robber turned around and shot Dave instantly. The bullet entered his wrist and exited his elbow.

After shooting Dave, the crooks left everything behind – including the car. The Chicago Police were still searching for the criminal duo as of Thursday night.

Add all these incidents to the other carjackings the weekend before Thanksgiving, many of them on the North or Near Northwest sides. In one of them – also in the Wicker Park-Bucktown area – a woman reversed and got out of the way of the gunmen in the nick of time.

The CBS 2 Investigators have been tracking the alarming trend.

In 2019, Chicago saw a total of 516 carjackings, and with December still ahead of us, 2020 as of late November had already seen 1,145 cases and growing. That amounts to a spike of 120%.

McDermott said the CPD's citywide carjacking task force is increasing its abilities and is aware of where carjackings are occurring. Resources are being deployed to the appropriate areas, he said.

Meanwhile, as McDermott took questions at a news conference, CBS 2's Terry also noted that concern about crime is mounting in the Beverly and Morgan Park areas. Just Wednesday, a woman was robbed in her garage at 97th Street and Winchester Avenue.

"We understand the fears that they're going through. We all have people that we know that live in this community that shouldn't have to live in fear, and that the men and women of this department are working their hardest to stop the violence that's going on right now and to try to make this community and the city safe for everybody," McDermott said.

In addition to the spike in carjackings, Cook County – Chicago and the suburbs combined – has seen more than 900 murders and could top a 25-year high for homicides by year's end, the county Medical Examiner's office said this week. In addition, 70 Chicago Police officers have been shot at – an increase of 400 percent.

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