City Winery dishwasher made ‘praise to Jesus’ before murdering co-worker, prosecutors say

Clarence Johnson (Chicago Police Department, Google)

CHICAGO — A dishwasher at the West Loop City Winery made “praise to Jesus” and laid face-down in the main restaurant area before murdering a co-worker in front of patrons and other employees, prosecutors said Friday.

Judge Deidre Dyer detained 41-year-old Clarence Johnson after hearing about the allegations during a hearing at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse. 

During the hearing, prosecutor Anne McCord Rodgers said a bartender was cutting fruit in the restaurant around 5 p.m. Wednesday when they saw Johnson “approach the bar, make praise to Jesus, and lay face on the ground,” according to a proffer provided by the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office.

Another employee, Francois Reed-Swain, 47, asked Johnson why he was lying on the floor, and the two walked away from the bar together, Rodgers continued.

Moments later, both men returned. Video showed Johnson pushing Reed-Swain against the bar and striking him in a “downward motion,” said Rodgers. The bartender looked up and saw Johnson stabbing Reed-Swain.

Two patrons seated at the bar saw Johnson chase Reed-Swain into the main seating area with a knife in his hand before stabbing Reed-Swain multiple times, Rodgers stated. Reed-Swain fell to the floor, striking his head.

A manager who saw Johnson holding a pocketknife ordered him to drop the weapon. According to Rodgers, Johnson complied, and the manager kicked the knife away before calling 911.

Rodgers said that the bartender and Johnson both tried to help Reed-Swain after he collapsed. Chicago police officers arrested Johnson at the scene. On the way to the police station, according to Rodgers, he told the officers that “he didn’t mean to do that” to Reed-Swain. She said Reed-Swain died from four stab wounds to his chest, shoulder, and back.

Johnson is a 12-time convicted felon, according to the state’s proffer. Ten of those convictions were narcotics-related. He was convicted of possession of a firearm by a gang member in 2011 and escape in 2009.

He is currently facing charges of first-degree murder and cocaine possession.

On Friday, City Winery addressed the murder in an Instagram post:

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Tim Hecke is CWBChicago's managing partner. He started his career at KMOX, the legendary news radio station in St. Louis. From there, he moved on to work at stations in Minneapolis, Chicago, and New York City. Tim went on to build syndicated radio news and content services that served every one of America's 100 largest radio markets. He became CWBChicago's managing partner in 2019. His email address is tim@cwbchicago.com