As hunt for killers continues, slain officer's friends say he was looking forward to retiring

tooling around in the new car he'd bought himself as a retirement gift, driving it to friends' houses, cleaning it over and over and telling everyone about it.

On Monday, as police hunted for the men who shot and killed Bailey — the third Chicago officer gunned down in two months — his friends could talk only about what his killers had taken.

"He's got all the things to look forward to in his golden years (and) it's taken away from him," said Bruce Ford, an officer who had been friends with Bailey since the two worked as firefighters before joining the police force. "Here was a guy who was about to start his youth again."

He not only showed off his new black Buick to friends, he shared his excitement with the man he'd been assigned to protect: Mayor Richard Daley.

"Of course he loved his car," the mayor said Monday. "He talked about it."

The mayor and others also noted how much Bailey loved being a police officer. He had been eligible for retirement months ago but put it off until he was about to reach the city's mandatory retirement age of 63, Ford said.

Bailey also was a proud father, friends said. His daughter had trained as a police cadet in the hopes of becoming a police officer.

On Sunday, Bailey had just gotten off duty after working the overnight shift on the detail assigned to Daley's home when, police said, a group of people approached him about 6 a.m. and may have tried to steal his new car.

When the sound of gunshots shattered the Sunday morning silence, Bailey's family and neighbors ran outside. Police say Bailey's son, Michael, may have grabbed one of his father's guns and sprinted out the door, but on Monday they were still investigating whether he fired any shots. They said the vehicle they are looking for — an older-model tan Ford pickup truck — may have had bullet holes on one of the sides.

By the time Idella Jennings got to her porch across the street, whatever chase there had been was over and Bailey's son was standing over his father.

"He was asking his daddy to get up," she said.

The slaying marked the third time in two months that Chicago police officers have been shot and killed while off duty. The first was on May 19, when Thomas Wortham IV, was shot and killed outside his parents' home by men police said were trying to steal a motorcycle he'd bought himself as a gift after his latest tour of duty in Afghanistan.

Then on July 7, Officer Thor Soderberg, in full uniform, was walking to his car outside a police station after the end of his shift when a man grabbed his gun and shot him with it.

The shootings had Ford wondering whether he should retire rather than stay another year on the force as he'd planned.

"I look at that officer from the 7th of July and he's in full uniform, on police property and he's attacked," Ford said. "And that poor kid Wortham, how can you do two tours of duty in Afghanistan and (be killed) when you're supposed to be at home, not in combat?"

As for his friend, Ford said he finds himself wondering whether Bailey would have been cleaning his car that early in the morning had he not just gotten off duty.

"There's a possibility it would have happened, but I think had he retired he wouldn't have been getting up at 6 in the morning to wipe that car off," he said.

Donald Seals, who met Bailey when the two worked together as firefighters at the naval station north of Chicago, said he'd thought over and over about how happy Bailey looked Saturday when he came by to show him his new car and the words that didn't mean anything, really, until he heard the news of his death.

"At that time he said, 'It's probably the last car I'll ever buy,'" said Seals, who had responded: "Mike, you don't know that."