July 14--Wil Lewis and his wife had lived in Chicago for about a year and had moved about two weeks ago to a home in Rogers Park, a neighborhood they considered "safe enough," his family said.
The 28-year-old from Wisconsin, a photographer by trade, was scheduled to start a new job Monday, a prospect he was "very excited" about, family said.
But that all changed Saturday afternoon.
Lewis was less than a half mile from his home on Greenview Avenue when a man walked up and started firing Saturday afternoon, police said. Lewis was hit in the back and died within an hour at St. Francis Hospital in Evanston.
"We're just numb," his father, Joseph Lewis of Virginia, said Sunday. "I'm operating on two hours of sleep and so is my wife. There's not a lot anybody can say. It doesn't make a lot of sense.
"Somebody basically shot him dead. They felt it was a case of mistaken identity. Wil was not in the wrong."
Witnesses said Lewis was standing at a bus stop in the 1300 block of West Devon Avenue, on the border between the Edgewater and Rogers Park neighborhoods, when he was shot.
Ald. Joe Moore, 49th, told constituents in an email that he was on Devon Avenue about a block from the shooting when he heard gunfire. "I looked up to see the assailant, who appeared to be a teenager, continue to fire his weapon at a group of fleeing youths. It is something I will never forget," he said.
Police were questioning three people of interest and the gunman's vehicle may have been recovered, according to police, citing preliminary information.
The motive for the shooting was unclear but police do not believe Lewis was the target.
Paul Humpal, Lewis' father-in-law, said a police officer knocked on his door late Saturday night in Wisconsin to tell him the bad news. "They're sure he is not the intended target," Humpal said the police told him.
Wil Lewis was born in Guatemala and was adopted when he was 7, said his father.
"He came with really no educational background at all. He only spoke street Spanish, nothing formal. He couldn't read or write. So growing up we were tri-lingual -- English, Spanish and charades," Lewis said, laughing.
Their family spent some time in California, but Wil mainly grew up in Sturgeon Bay in Wisconsin'sDoor County. For his freshman and sophomore years, he attended Sturgeon Bay High School, where his father was the high school principal.
When his father got another job at Kaukauna High School in Wisconsin, he transferred there and graduated in 2005.
"He was a drummer for the choir, some track and wrestling. . .He tried a little bit of everything,"' Joseph Lewis said. During college, he was a fine arts major with an emphasis in photography, said his father.
"He was a good guy with a great sense of humor. He loved to tease and joke around,"' said his father, who last spoke with his son the day before he died, on July 11, his parents' wedding anniversary.
Wil Lewis was an "incredibly talented" photographer, said his sister-in-law, who did not want to be identified. She lives in Wisconsin and was the one to call her sister late Saturday night to tell her of her husband's death.
"He was basically right by home," she said. "It's likely he was just out doing errands. . .He was a wonderful uncle. My kids absolutely adored him. He was incredibly loving, very generous and very helpful."
Lewis' wife was in Madison, Wis., when her husband was shot, helping to host a birthday party for her 5-year-old nephew, Humpal's grandson.
"She is devastated," Humpal said. "She doesn't know what she's going to do without him."
Humpal said Lewis and his daughter, 30, met while both were students at the Milwaukee Institute of Art about eight years ago. They moved to Chicago about a year ago when Lewis' wife got a job at the Leo Burnett ad agency as an art director.
Before the move, the couple worked together at Kohl's in Menomonee Falls, Wis., where Lewis worked as a freelance photographer taking pictures for their catalog, mostly clothing, said Humpal.
"He was just really excited about the fact that he had a fulltime job with all the benefits. He had worked really hard at a couple of different places. It was just coming to fruition," said his father.
Humpal had recently helped the couple move into their new home. Their new place was a "little less" in rent and more room. Near Loyola University's Lakeshore campus and close to a high school, they figured it was safe place to start their new life.
"Before they picked it, they were considering different areas. They figured it should be safe enough," Humpal said of the neighborhood. "Apparently not."
Aug. 18 was to be their second wedding anniversary.
"They were definitely hopeful" for their future, Humpal said. "I have no idea what we will do without him. She doesn't either."
Joseph Lewis said the death was a sad reminder that "you cannot take days or moments or minutes for granted. You need to share your feelings for one another and you need to hug those people a lot. You need to let people know that you love them because you don't ever know when something like this happens. You cannot take anything for granted."
Wil Lewis' sister-in-law said Lewis' wife "wants people to know that he was somebody who was very kind and he had a generous, enormous heart. He was a beautiful person and one of the most creative people she knows."
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