As he stood next to his brand-new Buick on a Sunday morning, polishing the retirement present he'd given himself, Michael Bailey looked like an easy mark.
He was an older guy, his attention drawn to his prized new possession.
But when Antwon Carter, a suspected carjacker, tried to rob the off-duty Chicago police officer last July, he touched off a shootout with the 20-year veteran, gunning him down in front of his own home, law enforcement authorities said.
Late Tuesday, more than a year after the killing, Carter, 24, was charged with murder and attempted armed robbery, Cook County prosecutors said.
The charges came after a long, frustrating year for detectives who chased scores of leads in the case, only to see them fizzle.
They ran down bogus information from confidential informants and sorted through details from witnesses who changed their stories during interviews. They executed search warrants, seeking phone records and saliva samples from potential suspects. At one point they were told Bailey's killer was fleeing town; another informant led them to search the South Side home of a Gangster Disciple, who, according to the informant, had discussed the slaying and even had the murder weapon.
As detectives were hitting one dead-end after another, Carter was sitting in the Illinois Department of Corrections for much of the investigation on a parole violation, apparently unable to keep quiet about the slaying, several law enforcement sources said.
It was there that he allegedly told several witnesses about killing Bailey while trying to rob him, the sources said. State prison personnel also notified Chicago police after they intercepted a phone call in which Bailey's murder was discussed, the sources said.
By March, the information had made its way to Calumet Area detectives. In June, more than a dozen helmeted SWAT officers clad in camouflage and armed with carbine rifles raided a home in the Grand Crossing neighborhood, setting off two "flash bang" grenades as they stormed in. A slew of plainclothes detectives followed into the brick two-story house where Carter often stayed. There, police found letters written by Carter from prison in which he allegedly made references to Bailey's slaying, the sources said.
"What's in the dark comes to the light, eventually," Bailey's widow, Pamela, said Tuesday after learning of the charges. "I always felt they would find his killer."
Bailey, 62, a father of three who was assigned to the Central Police District, had just returned to his Park Manor home about 6 a.m. from working an overnight shift guarding the residence of then-Mayor Richard Daley on July 18, 2010.
Bailey was washing his car, a Buick Regal he had bought three weeks earlier. When Carter, on parole at the time, allegedly tried to rob Bailey, the two exchanged fire. Bailey emptied his 9 mm semiautomatic but was shot three times, according to court records.
A bottle of Windex was found by Bailey's body; he was in his police uniform, a baseball jersey over it.
Bailey, a former firefighter, was about a month from turning 63, the mandatory retirement age for Chicago police officers. Officers at the Central District had already made plans for his retirement party.
Reward money totaling more than $125,000 was raised in the weeks after his slaying.
He was one of three Chicago police officers killed over two months last year.
Carter, meanwhile, had been scooped up by Chicago police just two months after the killing in an unrelated carjacking and was sent to state prison, according to court records. At that time, Carter had been on parole after a conviction for aggravated battery to a peace officer.
Carter was also charged Tuesday with another unrelated carjacking near East 75th Street and South Cornell Avenue less than a week after Bailey was killed.
McClatchy-Tribune News Service