By Annie Sweeney
CHICAGO — Latrice Tucker sat in her living room Friday looking up at a picture on the wall of her "big man," slain Chicago police officer Clifton Lewis, crying and telling him a thing or two.
Tucker had dearly missed his support at the recent three-day Cook County trial of her brother's killer. And now she faced the holidays — the time of year the couple got engaged — without her fiance again.
"I can't believe I have to do another Thanksgiving without you. I have to do another Christmas without you?" she recalled thinking. "I was angry. I wanted him there."
Later that night, Tucker got a call from Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy with jarring news — the third suspect had been charged in Lewis' slaying. It was a man Tucker knew police had been pursuing for some time.
"I get this news and I am like, all right, 'So are you telling me that you don't want me crying anymore? That it will be OK?'" Tucker said. "I am overjoyed. I am ready to actually look this guy in his face."
On Saturday morning Tucker sat with Lewis' mother in a crowded Cook County court room as Alexander Villa, 25, stepped forward to face charges that he fatally shot Lewis during a botched robbery Dec. 29, 2011, at a West Side convenience store where Lewis worked a second job as a security guard.
"Villa went straight at Officer Lewis ... climbed over the counter and fired at Officer Lewis, striking him in the lower abdomen," Assistant State's Attorney Andrew Varga said.
At those words, Lewis' mother, Maxine Hooks, let out a low sob from the gallery; Tucker stoically wrapped an arm around her.
Villa, charged with first-degree murder of a peace officer, aggravated battery and armed robbery with a firearm, was ordered held without bail. Later outside court, Davor Sicel, Villa's attorney, denied all charges.
Hours later, McCarthy, surrounded by the slain officer's family and fellow officers, praised the nearly two years of "dogged" detective work that led to Villa's arrest.
Detectives "knew additional offenders were involved with the murder," McCarthy said, "and they never gave up."
Villa's name surfaced early in the investigation as a possible suspect.
"We basically beat the streets for the last two years," said Detective Anthony Noradin, who has worked on Lewis' murder investigation from the beginning. "A lot of information came from the streets that put Alexander Villa where he is today."
Villa's alleged conspirators in the robbery, Tyrone Clay, 31, and Edgardo Colon, 36, were arrested in January 2012. Both are being held without bail pending trial. All three are alleged members of the Spanish Cobras street gang, prosecutors said. Villa, his neck adorned with an intricate tattoo of Jesus wearing a crown of thorns and second gang sign inked beneath his eye, stood with his head tilted slightly to one side as Varga described the attack at the M&M Quick Food, 1201 N. Austin Blvd.
Colon acted as the driver, while Villa and Clay, donning masks, charged into the store brandishing weapons — Villa a Tech-9-style gun and Clay a 9-mm. As Lewis identified himself and drew his gun, Villa shot him, prosecutors said. Clay then also shot him.
Both Clay and Colon implicated themselves and Villa in videotaped statements, Varga said in court. Villa has since allegedly made statements to several others implicating himself.
At the time of his arrest this week on the murder charge, Villa, of the 4500 block of West Altgeld Street, was in Cook County Jail for violating the terms of bond in two other felony cases. In January, he had been charged in the Nov. 24, 2012, traffic death of Ivan Miranda.
Lewis, a decorated officer, was assigned to the Austin District tactical unit.
Tucker, who became engaged to Lewis just days before the 2011 shooting, said she often still waits for Lewis to walk through their back door.
But this week was a good week, she said Saturday.
"I am ecstatic that my brother has gotten justice," she said. "And I am ecstatic that we will get justice for Cliff."
Tribune reporters Jeremy Gorner, Adam Sege and Jonathan Bullington contributed.
McClatchy-Tribune News Service
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