BY FRANK MAIN
One victim was a retired bus driver and the other a talented blues guitarist.
They were shot to death three blocks apart on the morning of Dec. 19, 2013, in what police believe were botched robberies.
Police said they have two suspects in the murders. Both are now behind bars for other crimes. But no one in the South Shore neighborhood, where the shootings happened, will come forward to identify them as the killers.
“We are very close to making arrests,” said Sgt. Daniel Gallagher. “This case is not unsolvable. We’re hoping someone from the community steps up.”
Gallagher said police have gathered surveillance video that shows two suspects walking toward the Chevrolet Malibu in which 74-year-old Willie Cooper was waiting to pick up a friend at about 5 a.m. in the 7000 block of South East End Avenue.
Cooper, a retired Chicago Transit Authority bus driver, was waiting to give his friend a ride to their jobs as Blue Cross/Blue Shield shuttle bus drivers.
Private security video showed two men approach Cooper’s car. After an exchange of words, a gunman shot Cooper through a window as he tried to drive away. Cooper crashed into a gate, dying of seven bullet wounds.
Chicago Public Schools security video showed the suspects fleeing through a school play lot.
About 40 minutes later, surveillance video from an apartment complex showed the suspects approach Eric “Guitar” Davis’ car in the 6700 block of East End Avenue. Davis, 41, had just left a friend’s house and was going home. Again, he and his assailants exchanged words. Then Davis put his car into gear and was shot through a window; he was hit three times.
Investigators tracked the killers’ escape route and obtained a security video of them in a gangway. The video clearly shows the faces of the suspects — a 23-year-old and a 22-year-old with extensive criminal records, police said.
On Saturday, Cooper’s fiancée, Mamie Washington, and Davis’ brother Robert Jones walked through the neighborhood with volunteers, police and CrimeStoppers officials. They distributed fliers with the suspects’ surveillance camera photos.
Many residents knew the names of the suspects and some said they were even victims of them. Residents told Washington and Jones the men were notorious for committing break-ins, robberies and other crimes. One woman said one of the suspects invaded her home and tied her up looking for drugs, but she never reported the crime to police.
But no residents would talk to police about their run-ins with the men.
A $1,000 reward from Crimestoppers for the arrest and conviction of the killers has not helped.
Jones said he heard several people witnessed his brother’s murder.
“Everybody in the neighborhood knows who did it,” he said. “Next time, it might be their family member.”
Washington said her fiancé was carrying only $20 when he was killed — and the robbers didn’t even get that.
“I tell people, ‘This is your chance to keep these guys from coming back and terrorizing your neighborhood,’ ” she said. “These are not animals. Animals kill for a reason. These are savages.”