Tuesday, July 20, 2010

FBI joins search for suspects in slaying of Chicago officer

bailey300.jpgThe FBI has joined in the search yesterday for the men who gunned down a Chicago police officer as he returned home after working the overnight shift guarding Mayor Richard Daley's house.

Police believe Officer Michael R. Bailey was killed Sunday morning outside his Park Manor home by men trying to rob him or steal his new Buick Regal -- a gift the officer had bought for himself in anticipation of his retirement in a few weeks.

Bailey, 62, a 20-year veteran and a married father of three, was about a month away from turning 63, the mandatory retirement age for Chicago police officers.

Bailey was in his uniform shining his prized black Buick when he was attacked about 6 a.m. in the 7400 block of South Evans Avenue, police said. He identified himself as an officer before exchanging gunfire with at least one attacker, a source said, citing early reports.

FBI officials said they have joined the search for Bailey's killers and are offering a reward of up to $20,000 for information leading to the arrest of the people responsible for the killing, said Ross Rice, an FBI spokesman. The Fraternal Order of Police Chicago Lodge 7 also said today they are offering a $25,000 reward.

Ryane and Angelece Cook, Bailey's neighbors, were already awake when they heard gunshots on Sunday morning. She looked out the window but didn't see anything. Then the couple heard Bailey's daughter Jada screaming, "They shot my daddy! Somebody shot my daddy!"

Bailey's son, Michael, was home, grabbed one of his father's guns and ran outside to defend him, police said. It was unclear whether the son fired any shots at the attackers. A neighbor, Idella Jennings, said she saw him standing over his father yelling, "Daddy, get up!"

Bailey was lying on the ground in front of his car. Nearby was a bottle of Windex.

"He's had the car three weeks. Every time he came home, he wiped it down," said Angelece Cook, whose husband said he ran to Bailey after shooting and felt his pulse.

According to police bulletins, officers are seeking an older-model tan Ford pickup truck that may have bullet holes on the driver side. It was last seen heading south on Evans.

As many as 17 police evidence markers were placed around the crime scene, apparently showing the locations of shell casings and what appeared to be a handgun. Three guns were found, one of them belonging to Bailey, police said.

The killing marks the third shooting death of a Chicago officer in the last two months.

On July 7, Officer Thor Soderberg was in uniform leaving a police facility in the Englewood neighborhood when he got into a struggle with a man who took his gun and shot him.

On May 19, Officer Thomas Wortham IV, just back from a second tour in Iraq, was shot outside his parents' home in Chatham.

The Bailey and Wortham shootings have striking similarities. Wortham's killers also tried to rob him, attempting to steal his motorcycle. Wortham's father, a retired Chicago police officer, came to his son's aid. He retrieved his gun inside the home and shot at his son's assailants.

Ald. Freddrenna Lyle, 6th, who represents parts of Park Manor and the part of Chatham where Wortham was killed, said some residents have considered leaving the area.

"How do you convince people to stay in a community when you have armed police officers shot down?" Lyle said. "It's devastating. ... It's like a war out here. I never thought that in my life it would be this way."

Lyle said the problems in the community are a result of the loss of the blue-collar jobs and the inadvertent effects of tearing down public-housing high rises and sending their occupants into neighborhoods where they have fewer nearby resources.

Bailey was assigned to the Central District and had been stationed overnight at the mayor's home.

"This is a tragic, stunning reminder of the senseless violence that stalks too many of our neighborhoods," Daley said in a statement. "Another Chicago police officer gunned down, this time just weeks before leaving a long career of protecting Chicago. It's absolutely outrageous. ... I knew him. He was a good man. He did not deserve this."

Bailey dedicated his life to public service, his family said, noting that he was a firefighter before he became an officer.

Friends and family described Bailey as a soft-spoken gentleman. He reportedly lived in his Park Manor home for more than 25 years and was considered an elder on the block.

"Everyone respected him," said Howard Davis, 34, who grew up on the street. "He was a cool, mellow guy."

Bailey, vice president of the 74th Street Evans block club, was helping plan a block party for senior citizens. Members of the club were concerned about the three abandoned two-story homes on the block.

Ryane Cook, the president of the club, said he and Bailey talked daily about how to respond to the area's recent violence and crime.

"Being a Chicago police officer, he gave us a lot of insight on getting trespassers arrested, filing complaints," Cook said.

Bailey also tried to keep kids in the neighborhood busy by teaching them martial arts in his yard, Cook said.

He was a "great Zen master" who practiced tai chi, said Stephanie Tatum, who has known Bailey since they were classmates at Chicago State University. He was the godfather of her two sons.

Other residents said Bailey was an inspiration in the community.

"Back in high school, I could have gone two different ways," said Vincent Dove, 32, of Dolton, who grew up a few houses away from Bailey. "He'd tell me that my mom worked too hard for me not to go to school."

Dove heeded the officer's advice and went to college.

Bailey's children and his wife, Pamela, called friends and family Sunday morning shortly after the shooting to tell them what happened. John Holmes, Pamela Bailey's cousin, said, "She's pretty torn up."

"It's a flip of the coin when you walk out of your house," said Holmes, a retired police officer. "Everyone's sad about this. This is happening too frequently."

Mark Donahue, president of the police union, called Bailey's death a "great loss."

"The frequency which we are experiencing this is extremely disturbing, but it does go along with what's happening in our communities," Donahue said. "It's unfortunate. Times have come where we have to readjust with how we police, to bring situations like this to an end."

Bailey's death was "heartbreaking," especially given Bailey's years on the force, Officer Kevin Brown told WGN-TV. The Central District already had plans under way for Bailey's retirement party.

Officers who worked with Bailey told WGN-TV that he loved his job so much that he would not have been retiring if he weren't required by law to do so. They said Bailey always went out of his way to pass along knowledge to younger officers -- and he was affectionately known as "old-timer."

Police Superintendent Jody Weis was out of town Sunday tending to the affairs of a family member who recently died, a police spokesman said.

Beatrice Cuello, assistant police superintendent for administration, spoke Sunday morning outside Northwestern Memorial before a police motorcade took the officer's body to the medical examiner's office.

"Words cannot express the shock, sorrow and outrage we feel at the loss of a Chicago police officer. This is the third brave officer killed since May," she said. "The job of being a police officer is incredibly rewarding each day we have the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of others. At the same time, being a Chicago police officer is incredibly dangerous, and it is the risk we accept without hesitation because of the overwhelming commitment to public service."

She said the latest officers killed "embodied the commitment to public service and the willingness to sacrifice their lives protecting all of us."

Anyone with information is asked to call the Chicago FBI at (312) 421-6700 or Chicago Police at (312) 747-8272.

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