Who Was Willie Lloyd?
Willie Lloyd was the leader of one of Chicago's oldest gangs, the Almighty Vice Lord Nation. He was imprisoned several times for gang-related crimes. After his release from jail in 2002, he tried to earn a legitimate living mediating gang member disputes. His effort to promote peace fell on deaf ears. His enemies shot him six times, paralyzing him.
Willie Lloyd was born in Chicago, Illinois, in the city's tough, Westside neighborhood. Without any parental or community guidance, Lloyd quickly became involved in a life of crime. He joined the Unknown Vice Lords, a local gang, in the late 1960s, when he was only 12 years old. Lloyd was a natural leader within the faction and, by the time he was 14, he had recruited more than 1,000 followers, or "soldiers," to the gang.
On December 5, 1971, the 20-year-old Lloyd headed to Davenport, Iowa, with several Vice Lords soldiers. The trio rented a motel room in Davenport and broke into several rooms, holding the occupants at gunpoint while they robbed them. Police arrived on the scene shortly after and entered into a shootout with Lloyd and his companions. All three men were arrested, but not before one of Lloyd's group shot and killed a state trooper. The incident sent all three Vice Lord members to prison. Lloyd received a 25-year sentence for his role in the crime, but only served 15.
Although Lloyd hadn't been the triggerman in the crime, other Vice Lords members referred to Lloyd as a "cop killer," giving him the reputation of a cold, hardened criminal. By the time he finished his sentence, Lloyd had become a legend on the streets.
Lloyd returned to Chicago after his release and declared himself boss of all local Vice Lord gangs. As the self-proclaimed "King of the Vice Lord Nation," Lloyd helped generate new methods of income for the group, including drug dealing and street taxes for anyone who wanted to do business in Vice Lord territory. Anyone who didn't pay was extorted or murdered.
Chicago law enforcement tried to put Lloyd back behind bars, but were unable to make any charges stick. However, in January 1988, he was pulled over for a routine traffic violation. Police discovered a 9 mm and a MAC-10 submachine gun. That August, he was convicted and sentenced to three years in prison. While serving his time at Logan Correctional Center, Lloyd still managed to effectively run the Vice Lords. However, by the time he was released in 1992, he had developed a heroin addiction that left his soldiers skeptical of his ability to lead.
Lloyd returned to the Westside to resume his position as Vice Lord leader, but many Vice Lord members were resentful of his attempts to re-establish control. Tyrone "Baby Tye" Williams, who had assumed power while Lloyd was in prison, helped create an opposition movement to Lloyd's leadership. To curb the new faction, Lloyd abducted Williams' brother and held him for ransom after he had refused to pay a $6,000 debt to Lloyd. Williams secured his brother's release, but then sent his soldiers to shoot up a vehicle filled with Lloyd's relatives—including his infant son. A gang war ensued.
Arrest and Imprisonment
Law enforcement apprehended Lloyd's group before they could retaliate, but the conflict was far from over. A few months later, Williams' splinter gang murdered Lloyd's right-hand man in a drive-by shooting. In a separate incident, Williams' soldiers also executed two of Lloyd's teenaged drug dealers. They then followed Lloyd home from a court appearance and shot him, as well as his three passengers. No one was fatally injured, but all suffered gunshot wounds.
Lloyd attempted to hide from his attackers, but he was forced to appear in court for the abduction and ransom of Williams' brother. He was acquitted for the abduction after the judge declared the witnesses testifying against Lloyd unreliable. But Williams, along with several members of his faction, were charged with the murders of Lloyd's associates, and for the highway assault on Lloyd's family members.
In 1994, shortly after Williams' conviction, Chicago law enforcement received a tip that Lloyd was carrying an illegal weapon. Police raided Lloyd's house, finding a 9 mm handgun, which Lloyd contended was planted. Regardless of how the weapon came into his possession, police finally had cause to arrest Lloyd. He was sentenced to eight years in a 24-hour lockdown facility. A month later, a massive bust by law enforcement captured more than 100 of Lloyd's Vice Lord associates, shutting down the Unknown Vice Lord gang.
Attempts to Change His Life
After his release from federal prison in 2002, Lloyd decided to retire from his life of crime and attempt to earn a legitimate living as a mediator for gang members. He began collaborating with Chicago's School of Public Health, where he worked with the Chicago Project for Violence. He also involved himself with CeaseFire, a program that provides gang mediation efforts, and mentoring at a Westside church.
In addition, Lloyd agreed to lecture incoming freshmen in DePaul University's Discover Chicago program on the dangers of gang life. He took sociology students on a field trip to give them an inside look at gangs in their "natural habitat," and discussed the pathology of crime. When parents learned of the arrangement, however, angry phone calls to school administrators shut the program down.
But Lloyd's attempts to promote peace didn't resonate with his former enemies. In August 2003, Lloyd was shot six times while walking his dogs in Garfield Park in Chicago. Lloyd survived the attack but was paralyzed from the neck down. In the aftermath of the attack, Lloyd continued to advocate peace. He remained a spokesman for anti-violence organizations and anti-gang efforts until his death in 2005.
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