Perhaps some bad news can at least result in a lesson being learned, though in this case, it comes too late for one Chicago sales clerk. Last week, prosecutors report that 18-year-old Sincere Williams had robbed three stores in the Wicker Park neighborhood of Chicago, including the local Walgreens. Apparently not satisfied with his take from those robberies, Williams returned to the Walgreens last Sunday with more on his mind than simple theft. Armed with either one or two knives, Williams proceeded to stab store clerk Olga Marie Calderon nearly a dozen times before calmly walking out of the store covered in blood, leaving Calderon to die on the floor of the shop.
Prosecutors further assert that this was a premeditated killing because Williams had stashed a change of clothes nearby, switching outfits before ditching his knife in some bushes and walking back home. He managed to cut himself in the process and had to be taken to a local hospital for stitches. What the local CBS News outlet learned later made this crime all the more disturbing. Williams wasn’t unknown to law enforcement. In fact, he had robbed a gun shop in March of this year, stealing 14 handguns before being quickly apprehended by the police. The gun shop owner is outraged that he was put back out on the street so quickly and maintains that Olga Marie Calderon would be alive today had the previous crime been taken more seriously.
The owner of Suburban Sporting Goods Guns & Ammo in Melrose Park said his gun shop was burglarized in May. He said Williams tried stealing 14 handguns.
Williams, now 18, was arrested and charged with burglary at the time. And the gun shop owner said Williams should still have been off the streets at the time Cook County prosecutors said he murdered Walgreens clerk Olga Marie Calderon – and she should still be alive today…
“That’s a pretty heinous crime,” the owner said. “These weren’t hunting guns. He wasn’t stealing to feed his family. These were likely going somewhere very bad.”
“I was kind of enraged. It’s like, here’s this kid that broke into a gun store and stole several firearms,” the owner said. “Just because he was caught, it doesn’t lessen the severity of the crime.”
Sincere Williams wasn’t totally let off the hook for the gun shop robbery. He was wearing an electronic monitoring device on his ankle until last month and was scheduled for a court appearance in October. But he was somehow allowed to remove the monitoring device in August and left to his own devices while awaiting trial. Now we know how Mr. Williams chose to occupy his time.
What excuse is being offered by the city for releasing Williams in the first place? They’re not saying. Some observers are speculating that it was because he was technically still a minor at the time of the March robbery. Or perhaps a COVID-19 outbreak in the jail was to blame. Or maybe it was just part of the larger, “empty the jails” movement sweeping the nation’s major cities. In the end, none of that really matters, I suppose.
But stop and think about that original robbery. This kid wasn’t stealing food or clothing or even a flat-screen television. He was stealing firearms. But not hunting rifles or shotguns. He smashed the glass out of the display cases with a hammer and took more than a dozen handguns. Where do you suppose those handguns were going to wind up? We already know that the vast majority of shootings in Chicago and most larger cities are committed with unregistered weapons by people who never managed to make it through a background check. Sincere Williams was looking to feed more poison into that deadly pipeline.
And yet he was released on his own recognizance. And now Olga Marie Calderon is dead and another community is leaving flowers and memorabilia at a makeshift memorial for her. Is this really the sort of criminal justice reform we’re supposed to be aiming for in the United States? If law enforcement manages to get their hands on someone like Sincere Williams with compelling video evidence of the commission of a gun store robbery, shouldn’t our first impulse be to lock him up rather than working to find any excuse to put him back out on the streets? Some somber food for thought as you kick off your weekend.