Gang leader is shot on the West Side
Police doubt that Vice Lord retired

By David Heinzman
Tribune staff reporter
Published August 21, 2003

Willie Lloyd, the flamboyant West Side gang leader who survived assassination attempts, did time for murdering a police officer and lectured on gang life at DePaul University after professing he retired, was shot multiple times and critically wounded Wednesday morning, police said.

Police believe Lloyd, 52, never really abandoned his role as a leader of the Vice Lords. He was gunned down as he got out of his van at about 9:40 a.m. at 3600 W. Jackson Blvd., on the corner of Garfield Park. Police sources said they believed he was shot as he was meeting with gang members, possibly in a set-up.

Three small foil packets of suspected drugs were found next to his body, police said.

But an acquaintance, who said Lloyd truly had left behind gang life, said Lloyd was gunned down after arriving at the park to walk his dogs. Police spokesman David Bayless said he did not know whether Lloyd had dogs with him when he was shot.

Lloyd was shot in the neck and as he underwent hours of surgery Wednesday at Mt. Sinai Hospital Medical Center, police and acquaintances told very different versions of the life he's led in the years since he was a high-profile gang kingpin.

He last went to prison in 1994, when he received an 8-year federal sentence for a weapons conviction. Since his release in February 2001, he had not been in trouble with the police.

But police say they doubt he turned away from a past that included running the Vice Lords' drug operations on the West Side and numerous other crimes. Special Operations officers were patrolling the area around the shooting Wednesday to deter any retaliation. Lloyd was convicted in 1973 of second-degree murder in the killing of a rookie police officer in Davenport, Iowa.

At one time, he was considered one of the three leading street gang leaders in Chicago, along with El Rukn Jeff Fort and Larry Hoover of the Gangster Disciples. Both Fort and Hoover are in federal prison.

In 1992, Lloyd caused a stir when he emerged from the Logan Correctional Center in Downstate Lincoln dressed in leather, fur and jewels and was greeted by five white limousines and an entourage of similarly attired gang members.

He moved into a Marriott Hotel in Deerfield, but his stay was short. Three months later, he was charged with armed robbery in the wake of a dramatic attempt on his life on the Eisenhower Expressway.

In a dispute over drug turf, members of his own gang slid open the side door of a van on the expressway in Hillside and sprayed Lloyd's car with gunfire. Lloyd wasn't in the car, which did contain his wife and child.

The brother of one of his attackers was kidnapped, and Lloyd was charged with taking a Mercedes Benz as ransom.

In 1989, members of the rival Maniac Latin Disciples bought grenades from the now-notorious cop, gang specialist Joseph Miedzianowski, and used one to blow up Lloyd's car, according to a federal affidavit.

While police said he was still actively involved in gang life, anti-violence advocates who worked with Lloyd said he had retired and was working hard to curb gang-related violence.

He had regular contact with Operation Ceasefire staff, who try to intervene in gang and drug-related violence to stop homicides before they happen.

"There is going to be a lot of skepticism and cynicism around him because of his history," said Gary Slutkin, director of Ceasefire. "My staff said he's really been trying."

DePaul sociology professor Greg Scott, who brought Lloyd in as a guest lecturer for classes about gang life, said Lloyd helped found a similar organization called Against All Odds.

"He's a retired gang leader. My impression is that he is no longer calling shots and no longer directly implicated in any wrongdoing," Scott said, adding that he's seen Lloyd get involved in gang disputes to keep them from escalating into violence. "I've seen no evidence that he's been doing anything but try to make good in his life."

Although DePaul officials said they would re-evaluate Lloyd's involvement in teaching at the university after publicity of his role there and his violent past emerged in 2001, Scott said Lloyd lectured as recently as February and he was planning to have him return in the fall.

"Mainly, he would offer a first-hand account of the history and evolution of street gangs in Chicago," Scott said. Lloyd was brought in as one of several guest speakers, including police officials, over multiple class dates. Students "were always riveted by what he had to say. Most people saw a highly intelligent, extremely articulate person who made a series of serious mistakes."