Security guard killed in Little Italy worked hard, made time for friends and family

Damien Nelson got to work early and left late every day, his boss said. But after getting off the clock, Nelson was the “life of the party,” his wife said.

The 44-year-old was working as a security guard at a Little Italy apartment building early Monday morning when he was fatally shot by someone in a black car, police said.

Nelson, who grew up in the Humboldt Park area and lived in Auburn Gresham, prioritized time with his family. He took his daughter, Damaria, on “daddy-daughter dates” and treated her “like she was a baby, even though she was 23,” said Nelson’s wife, Mamie Thomas.

He made time to bond with his 11-year-old son, Damarion, and had plans to go to Lincoln Park with his kids this week.

“He was an outstanding father,” Thomas said. “He was there for them always.”

Nelson was guarding the BJ Wright Court apartments, 1354 S. Morgan St. He was in uniform but not armed, according to Benford Protection Group CEO Andre Benford.

Police officers responding to a call of shots fired found Nelson dead about 4 a.m., police said.

Thomas said she was in and out of sleep Monday morning when Nelson would have typically texted her to open the door when he arrived home from work. The texts never came.

But Thomas didn’t worry.

“He must have just stopped to get coffee, I didn’t think nothing of it,” she said.

Thomas said she was annoyed when the doorbell rang, thinking Nelson had roused the dog. But it was a Chicago police detective informing her that her husband had been fatally shot.

“I didn’t think it was real,” Thomas said. “I’m just like, he’s gonna be pulling up any minute to tell me he was late or he just stopped off to get coffee. I’m just in disbelief. Not my Damien.”

Damien Nelson, center, with his wife Mamie Thomas, daughter Damaria and son Damarion.


The family was reeling from the sudden grief.

“[My son] doesn’t know how to decipher these feelings,” Thomas said. “He cried for his father, but he’s still a kid.”

Nelson juggled several jobs with family time, Thomas said. He planned date nights, hung out with his two closest friends and made everyone laugh, all while working as a security guard and part-time as a convenience store clerk.

“He was the life of the party,” Thomas said. “Jokes, antics, always.”

“If he could work three or four jobs, he would do it. I’ll miss that about him. He always worked to provide for his family.”

His personality shone on the job as well, his boss said. Nelson worked at Benford Security Group for 11 months.

“He had a great demeanor, great personality, worked well with others,” Benford said.

The security company’s staff is “grieving heavily” after experiencing its first fatality on the job, Benford said. Counselors are coming to support employees, he said.

“You can always talk about preparation for this until it happens, and then you find out you’re never really prepared mentally,” he said.

Benford said security professionals from other companies responded to the scene and offered their condolences.

“We didn’t work in the same company, but one of theirs was killed today,” Benford said.

In a statement shared Monday night, Bedford Security Group offered condolences to Nelson’s family and said it was cooperating with Chicago police to “ensure that those responsible for this heinous crime are swiftly brought to justice.”

The company said Nelson was a valued member of the firm’s team. “His dedication, bravery, service and sacrifice will not be forgotten.”

No one is in custody. Area 3 detectives are investigating.

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