Anti-violence advocate hit storekeeper with baseball bat during robbery, prosecutors say

Fontane Lewis | Chicago Police Department

CHICAGO — A West Side convenience store owner told police that a man who has been demanding a $250 weekly payout struck him with a baseball bat while an accomplice robbed him and the store’s cash register of over $1,000. But the accused man denies all of that, saying he works for a Chicago alderman and as an anti-violence advocate.

For now, though, 49-year-old Fontane Lewis is awaiting trial on armed robbery and aggravated battery charges in the Cook County jail.

Chicago cops who responded to a battery in progress call in the 3900 block of West Roosevelt around noon on October 30 said they found Lewis holding a baseball bat, which he put down at their request.

Once police arrived, the 56-year-old store owner stepped out, clutching his chest in pain. He told cops that Lewis had been coming into his store to demand payouts every week. A couple of weeks earlier, Lewis threatened to shoot him if he didn’t make a $250 weekly payment, the victim said, according to a CPD report filed with the court.

On October 30, the victim claimed he was locking up the store when Lewis arrived and demanded money. Lewis pushed, shoved, and struck the victim with the bat to keep him from going into the store while a second man went inside and took money from the register, the police report said.

The accomplice took another $1,000 from the victim, money that he brought along to pay a plumber, according to the report. Police said the victim told them the accomplice split the money with Lewis and fled before police arrived.

Lewis gave the police a much different story, according to a statement filed by CPD detectives. It said he was “task[ed] as an anti-violence advocate” and he “claimed he worked for the alderman.” His efforts “decreased violence and drugs” in the area since being assigned to the location about a year ago, the statement continued.

He insisted that he was not trying to extort money from the victim. Lewis said he swung the bat at the store’s security bars, but not the storekeeper. If he hit the victim, it was entirely unintentional.

However, Lewis admitted to getting money from the man who took cash from the store and the victim, police wrote in their interview notes.

“He snatched what he could snatch,” the report said. Lewis did not return the money to the storekeeper because he was “waiting to see how it all shook out,” according to the CPD interview notes.

Judge Susana Ortiz granted the state’s detention petition after hearing about the allegations.

Lewis’s criminal background includes a 10-year sentence for manufacture-delivery of cocaine in 2014, three years for being a felon in possession of a firearm in 2008, and 12 years for second-degree murder in 1994. He was found not guilty of murder and kidnapping in 2005, according to Cook County court records.

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