Police say it was the past crimes of an alleged "carjacking crew" around the Chicago area that helped lead to an arrest in the killing of a retired fire lieutenant in the city.
Hours after a 15-year-old was charged with murder in the case, Chicago authorities credited the work of south suburban and FBI officers with helping to bring justice in the case, though their investigation is far from complete.
"This is a carjacking crew who's involved in multiple different offenses," said Chicago Police Chief of Detectives Brendan Deenihan.
Police are still questioning one adult and looking for two others believed to be involved in the alleged carjacking that killed 65-year-old Dwain Williams as he left a gourmet popcorn shop in Chicago's Beverly Woods neighborhood.
The 15-year-old charged in the case faces first-degree murder and felony attempted robbery with a firearm.
"The south suburban departments and the FBI were of great assistance to the detectives in this cases, working together as a team because the south suburban departments were very familiar with this crew and believe they know some of these offenders," Deenihan said. "Eventually, through evidence and through some technology, the detectives were able to narrow it down to these four individuals."
The teen was arrested by the Great Lakes Regional Task Force Wednesday afternoon in the 400 block of West 16th Street, in Chicago Heights, according to police. A gun was recovered through a search warrant and testing was underway to determine if it was the weapon used in Williams' fatal shooting.
The teen pleaded not guilty through his public defender Thursday and was ordered held in court custody until his next hearing on Dec. 21.
Williams was shot and killed during an attempted carjacking on Dec. 3 after leaving gourmet popcorn shop "Let's Get Poppin."
Williams shielded himself with his SUV, which was decorated with a red Rudolph nose and reindeer antlers, as he returned fire at the suspects. The veteran firefighter sustained a gunshot wound and was transported to the hospital where he was pronounced dead.
As seen in surveillance video, the suspects jumped back in the vehicle they arrived in as a fourth individual drove the car away.
Police said the vehicle the group was in at the time was stolen and later recovered in Tinley Park.
"We worked with south suburban departments to gather video from that incident. That incident led to other steals and other carjacking crimes that this crew involved in," Deenihan said.
Williams, a father of four daughters, retired from the CFD after 26 years of service. He was also part of the Black Fire Brigade where he mentored and trained young teens to become emergency medical technicians, paramedics and firefighters.
"Dwain is an inspiration," his widow, Karen Williams, said Saturday at the Monument Of Faith Evangelistic Church, the site of her husband's celebration of life service. "His kind and loving spirit resonated with others, as you can see."
Karen Williams said her husband was a brave and courageous man, even in the final moments of his life.
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who also spoke at Williams' funeral over the weekend, quoted the former firefighter's nephew as she announced charges in the case Thursday.
"[Williams' nephew] said that if those men had given his uncle five more minutes, not only would he have talked them out of the crime that they were about to commit, but he would have shown them how to turn their lives into another direction and that he would have been there to help them do that. Unfortunately, he didn't get those 5 minutes."
Chicago police called the first arrest in the case "shocking."
"Fifteen is so young to be involved in such a heinous crime," Chicago Police Supt. David Brown said. "We always think it's a failure in our ability to change our young people's behavior, but with that said, his actions were heinous. The fact that this murder took place as a result of a car being taken is something that is so tragic for this family. We owe it to this victim and his family to bring everyone, regardless of their age, to justice."
Anyone with information about the crime or potential suspects is asked to call Area Two detectives at 312-747-8271or submit a tip to CPD online.