"It was his duty to stand up to them." - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

"It was his duty to stand up to them."

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By Jeff Angileri - bio | email | Twitter | Facebook

FITCHBURG (WKOW) -- Thomas Wortham IV died Thursday during a robbery outside his parents' home on the south side of Chicago.

The UW-Whitewater graduate served as a Wisconsin National Guardsman for 11 years.

At just 30 years old, Wortham survived two tours of duty in Iraq, but couldn't survive a bullet from an armed robbery on the streets of Chicago.

"He was the most unbelievable person I ever met," said Caitlin Waldhart of Fitchburg, Wortham's girlfriend. "He had the kindest heart, very chivalrous, gentle, loving, cared for everyone. He always could make me laugh no matter how upset I was."

They met while students at UW-Whitewater, the same place Wortham took Staff. Sgt. "Canada" Killman under his wing in the school's ROTC program.

"I slept in his dorm room, ate off his meal card," Killman said. "He had me sit in classes next to him." Killman, a northern Canada native, moved the U.S. and joined the Army National Guard. Wortham became his mentor at UW-W, and the two became good friends.

"Wortham didn't smoke, didn't drink, he was always giving of himself to make sure soldiers were taken care of," said Capt. Matthew McDonald. "He was a leader."

McDonald served alongside Wortham during their two tours of duty in Iraq with the Army National Guard.

"He never backed down from a challenging assignment and actually volunteered for the most dangerous assignments," said McDonald.

That same drive and desire led Wortham to Chicago's south side, a neighborhood plagued by crime and violence -- a place Wortham thought he could make a difference. When four men tried to steal Wortham's motorcycle last week, police say, Wortham held his ground, responding not as a victim, but as a cop.

"When you are a police officer, it's your job, regardless if you're on duty or not, to not give into thugs like that," Waldhart said. "It was his duty to step up to them and I'm proud of him."

Chicago police say four people were involved in the robbery. One suspect died during a gun-fire battle, another was critically wounded.

The suspects shot and killed Wortham, leaving him for dead.

Police arrested two other suspects, who police say drove the get-away car. They now face murder charges.

It's a painful, lasting image of personal sacrifice, that friends say they will take with them forever.

Said Killam, "He was giving to a fault. I wouldn't be here if it weren't for Tommy. I don't know if there will be another one like him ever."

 

Visitation: Thursday, 3pm - 8pm

Leak and Sons Funeral Home

7838 S. Cottage Grove Ave

Chicago, IL

 

Services: Friday, 1pm

Trinity United Church of Christ

400 W. 95th Street

Chicago, IL

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