Assistant Warden Virdeen Willis, Jr.

Assistant Warden Virdeen Willis, Jr.

Illinois Department of Corrections, Illinois

End of Watch Sunday, June 30, 1985

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Virdeen Willis, Jr.

Assistant Warden Virdeen Willis was shot and killed while off duty by a suspect who had been incarcerated at the Pontiac Correctional Center, where he was the assistant warden.

The suspect saw Assistant Warden Willis leaving a bar in Chicago, walked up to him, and shot him.

The suspect was twice found guilty of murder and sentenced to death. On February 19, 1999, the Illinois Supreme Court reversed his conviction outright on the grounds of insufficient evidence, exonerating the suspect who was released from prison. The governor granted an absolute pardon on August 1, 2002.

Assistant Warden Willis had served with the Illinois Department of Corrections for 19 years. He was survived by his mother.


  • Age 45
  • Tour 19 years
  • Badge Not available

Incident Details

  • Cause Gunfire
  • Weapon Gun; Unknown type
  • Offender Exonerated in 1999

convicted felon, gang member, off duty, retaliation

Most Recent Reflection

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I was a rookie Correctional Officer but back then we were called Guards. I worked with Captain Virdeen Willis, Jr. and went through the 1975 riot at the Old Joliet Prison on Collins Street with him. Virdeen was a brave hero of a man you could look up to. Virdeen set an exemplary example of what a Correctional Officer should be through his self-discipline, analytical skills, teamwork, problem-solving skills, observational skills, dedication, impartiality, decisiveness, selflessness, and negotiation skills, Virdeen was well respected by officers and inmates alike. Its been 50 years that have passed since that riot. But in my mind its still like yesterday. I still remember Captain Willis as calm as always approaching me on the East Yard. At which time He gave me the order to take the inmates and drop them off at the East Cell House where they will be secured and for me to report in front of the West Cell House where there is a full scale riot with civilian and corrections staff being held as hostages. Then all hell broke out. But this was just another day in the career of corrections employees. I remember the man larger then life Captain Willis. That was the man I knew and will never forget. Thank for your service Captain Willis and God bless you and your family members.

Correctional Officer Steve Seliga
IDOC Joliet Correctional Center (Retired)

January 14, 2024

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