For most of the past 35 years, the notorious Vice Lords gang was ruled from various prisons by convicted cop killer Willie Loyd. But Loyd, who survived an assassination attempt in 2003, is speaking out against the organized criminals who terrorize Chicago neighborhoods. We visited Loyd in another state where he is recovering from his wounds and hiding from those who might still want to see him dead.
"Gang life is not anything to be glorified," said Loyd.
Willie Earl Loyd, who spent over half his life in state and federal penitentiaries, is now imprisoned by his own body. Loyd is the 55-year-old -- he says retired -- supreme chief of the almighty Vice Lord nation.
"That's right, the king ... the king of kings," Loyd said.
Loyd has been paralyzed from the neck down since August, 2003, when he was hit by four bullets fired by assassins in Garfield Park.
Before the shooting, Loyd says he quit the Vice Lords and become an outspoken critic of gang life. He believes his attackers included some of his former henchmen.
"They felt I was threatening to their way of life," Loyd said.
One man who claims he was shot 15 times in a related attack a few weeks after the Loyd shooting says he and other Vice Lords were prepared to go to war for their king.
"I would die for him, kill for him, rob for him, steal for him, go to jail for him," said the unnamed gang member.
But Loyd would not give an order to retaliate.
"I don't want to take control again. No, it ain't for Willie to take control no more," said Loyd.
Police gang experts say that as a teenager on the West Side in the 1960's, Willie Loyd formed the Unknown Vice Lords, a group based along 16th Street in the Lawndale neighborhood.
He called his turf "the holy city," but it became a living hell for residents.
"Because of the fear that he struck in people. That's the reality of it," said Jarod Cooper, West Side resident.
Loyd's first prison term began in 1971 for his part in the murder of a police officer in Iowa. Paroled in 1986, a year later he was back behind bars in Illinois on a weapons conviction. Paroled again in 1992, two years later he was sentenced to federal prison on another gun violation.
Loyd said that while an inmate, he led his gang on the outside using prison employees who are Vice Lords.
"Gang members are guards," said Loyd.
While incarcerated, Loyd wrote The Amalgamated Order of Lordism, 61 pages obtained by ABC7, that detailed the Vice Lord command structure in the prisons and on the streets. Police and prosecutors say that during Loyd's quarter-century as gang leader, Vice Lord drug deals, extortion and other crimes led to thousands of homicides.
"Did I ever give an order for someone to be killed? No," said Loyd. "If Willie want something done, I'd do it myself. That's how I became respected."
Despite a dire prognosis from his doctors, Loyd and his wife, Willa, are convinced he will walk again and will return to Chicago to continue his campaign against gangs.
"There's no benefits to joining a gang. I seen myself as Dr. Frankenstein. The monster I created turned on me," Loyd said.
Chicago police never arrested or charged anyone for shooting Willie Loyd.
Loyd said he was never replaced as supreme chief and that the Vice Lords are now many small gangs operating independent of each other.