Here are the top five stories you need to know about today.
Lake County SWAT apprehends suspected gunman following reports in Lowell
The Lake County SWAT team took a suspect into custody early Sunday afternoon following reports of a barricaded gunman in the 300 block of Navajo Trail on Sunday in Lowell, Lake County Sheriff Oscar Martinez said.
The sheriff said officers took a man to a nearby hospital for observation, as a precautionary measure.
Mike Jinks, who lives nearby, in the 600 block of Mohawk Drive of Lowell's Indian Heights subdivision, said he saw the first police car arrive about 10:30 a.m.
His wife, Kelly, said, "It's scary." She had to bring in her children who had been playing in the snow. "I know the family in that house. We heard someone was taken hostage. We were all worried for those poor kids."
Police evacuated nearby homes and blocked off the street, which is about four miles west of Lowell's downtown. The suspect was believed to have been in possession of high-powered rifles and potentially other weapons, Martinez said.
At least one police officer had a rifle trained on the house. The temperature hovered in the mid 20s. A light snow fell.
Some subdivision residents paid little attention to the drama as they shoveled or blew out the previous night's snowfall from their driveways and sidewalks, like Mark Fagen was doing in the 500 block of Shawnee Drive "This is a quiet community," he said.
Others were perched outside their front doors anxiously watching, like Denise Becker, in the 500 block of Mohawk Drive. "I was a school bus driver and picked their kids up every morning. They are so little. I hope they are all right."
The standoff lasted about two hours.
"Upon SWAT making entry, the suspect was unresponsive but still breathing and was attended by SWAT medics and transported to the hospital," Martinez said. Officers were seen bringing the man out of the front door of the house on a stretcher which they wheeled into an ambulance parked in front of the house.
As county police officers walked away from the scene, about noon, a neighbor called out, "Are the children safe?" One of officers responded, "Yeah."
Check back at nwi.com for updates as they become available.
A buried Region digs out of wintry mess. Four deaths reported in Lake County related to snow removal.
HAMMOND — Small children sloppily constructed igloos and snowslides against homes on the side streets of central Hammond on Saturday only to watch their hard work later collapse.
Armed with shovels and ice scrapers, two teenage girls cleaned off their mother’s car on 170th Street and shoveled out snow from beneath her tires.
“They’re digging me out so we can all get to church tomorrow,” Traci Nixon said, smiling from her front door as her bundled-up daughters Naja, 15, and Daja, 14, scraped and shoveled in the streets.
Many people on Saturday were still digging themselves out of the wintry mess that clobbered the Region with as much as a foot of snow in less than 24 hours.
Westville in LaPorte County was hit with as much as 16 inches by the time the storm ended Friday, according to the National Weather Service.
Check out these wintryy snapshots shot around the Region this month. Share yours by emailing them to Times digital producer Laura Lane at laur…
The city of LaPorte received 11 inches, while Dyer saw 10.5 inches, Valparaiso 8 and Gary a reported 12, according to preliminary figures from the NWS.
And more snow is on the way.
A winter weather advisory is in effect until noon Sunday, with the NWS predicting another 2 to 5 inches of snowfall across portions of Northwest Indiana.
4 people have died removing snow
At least four people have died since the start of the storm Thursday while shoveling, plowing or using snowblowers, Lake County Coroner Merrilee Frey said. Their ages ranged from 51 to 72, according to Frey.
A 70-year-old Crown Point man was pronounced dead at Franciscan Health in Dyer on Saturday after he was out removing snow. A 51-year-old person from Crown point died in their home after coming inside from shoveling snow.
A 72-year-old man from South Holland and a 67-year-old Gary man died Friday from removing snow, according to Frey.
In a news release Saturday, Frey warned people to take precautions and slow down, especially if they suffer from cardiac and/or respiratory illnesses.
Frey suggested people pace themselves, dress warm and pay attention to your body.
“And they should look to others to assist,” Frey told The Times.
Porter County Coroner Chuck Harris said he had no weather-related deaths to report, as of Saturday afternoon. The LaPorte County Coroner did not respond to a request for comment Saturday.
Nationwide, snow shoveling is responsible for thousands of injuries and as many as 100 deaths each year, according to the National Safety Council.
'Doing our jobs'
A photo of Lake Station Police Chief Dave Johnson and his Assistant Chief Jerry Baldazo shoveling an elderly resident’s home circulated on social media over the weekend. By Saturday afternoon, the photo had been shared more than 200 times and garnered at least 600 likes.
Mary Wantuck, of Lake Station, who snapped the photo, said she was proud of the Lake Station police and their hard work.
Johnson said he and Baldazo responded to a call Friday in the 4500 block of Riverpool Road from an elderly resident who was severely snowed in. That’s when Johnson, Baldazo and another neighbor picked up shovels and began digging her out.
He said the woman was worried she would be unable to leave the home in the event of a medical emergency, he said.
“We were just helping out, doing our jobs and being police officers. She had no way of doing it herself," he said.
NWI Business Ins and Outs: Meijer, McAlister’s Deli, Anytime Fitness opening
McAlister’s Deli, a chain deli with a southern twist, opened its long-awaited Schererville restaurant Friday.
It’s the third Northwest Indiana location for McAlister’s Deli, which plans to open two more eateries in the area. The new fast-casual restaurant, in the vein of Panera Bread and Noodles and Co., is at 318 Indianapolis Boulevard in the new Shoppes on the Boulevard development.
“We believe McAlister’s handcrafted sandwiches, family-friendly atmosphere, and genuine hospitality will be a welcome addition to Schererville,” NWI Deli Inc. franchisee John Malesh said. “We look forward to opening our doors and becoming a part of Schererville and surrounding communities including Highland, Griffith, Munster, Dyer and St. John.”
McAlister’s, which also has restaurants in Merrillville and Valparaiso, serves up traditional deli fare like pastrami sandwiches, New Orleans-style muffalettas, giant spuds, salads and sweet iced tea. An example is the Big Nasty, a half-pound of Angus beef smothered in gravy and cheddar-jack cheese.
The 29-year-old establishment, which sets up in suburban locations, also offers takeout and catering.
The restaurant is open from 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. seven days a week. For more information, call 219-440-7681.
Grand Rapids, Michigan-based Meijer, which has 235 stores throughout Michigan, Ohio, Illinois, Kentucky, Wisconsin, and Indiana, is close to completing its new 190,000-square-foot superstore with a full grocery line in the Porter’s Vale Shopping Center in Valparaiso.
The store just east of Ind. 49 will employ 350 workers and be open 24/7. It will include a gas station and curbside pickup.
A company spokesman said it would be open by late spring or early summer.
Locally, Meijer also has locations in Portage, Merrillville, Michigan City and Highland.
Brothers Feras Musleh and Mohammade Musleh, with the help of their father Naser Musleh as an investor partner, are opening a Anytime Fitness gym in a brand new plaza next to CVS at the corner of Calumet Avenue and Main Street in Munster. An additional 2,700 square feet in the strip mall will be available for lease to retailers, restaurants or medical facilities.
The new gym at 821 Main St. will employ five, along with three more part-time class instructors. It will be open 24/7 and offer tanning, hydromassage, red light therapy, and live and virtual classes.
“Also, we will offer our new training program that will consist of one-on-one and group training sessions,” owner Mohammade Musleh said. “Clients will have access to our heart rate monitor system to track their calories as well as heart rate during sessions.”
Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore thrift store marked its second anniversary in Merrillville.
The thrift store relies on donations of lightly used items like clothes, home decor and furniture, reusing and recycling what would otherwise be pitched.
“I love to see how customers recycle items,” ReStore District Manager Kim DeRisi said. “The photos they show me are beautiful. I think people feel good when they get creative and recycle.”
The Griffith and Merrillville stores have diverted 1.5 million pounds of waste from the landfill and generate funds for Habitat for Humanity of Northwest Indiana, which builds houses that are sold to low-income families interest-free.
“ReStores are an environmentally and socially responsible way to keep good, reusable, materials out of the waste stream while providing funding for Habitat's community improvement work. It's a vital funding stream to help build Habitat homes,” DeRisi said. “ReStores mean we can help more families in need of safe, affordable housing get a home.”
With funding from Restore, the local Habitat for Humanity chapter hopes to put 10 more Northwest Indiana families in homes this year.
“It’s been a team effort cleaning it up, organizing and giving it a fresh look. We've made many changes over the years to make it better,” DeRisi said. “We have a wonderful, friendly staff and a place that I am proud of. We are open to the public and hope people come in to see what we have to offer.”
For more information, call 219-972-3000 or visit nwirestore.org.
Homeless woman found dead beneath the 80/94 Kennedy Avenue overpass. Coroner seeks public's help in identifying Jane Doe.
HAMMOND — A homeless woman who had reportedly been living beneath the Kennedy Avenue Interstate 80/94 overpass was found dead Saturday.
Lake County Coroner Merrilee Frey issued a news release Saturday seeking the public’s help in identifying the Jane Doe.
The woman, appearing to be between age 50 and 70 with a thin build at 110 pounds, was known to be called "Sgt. Major General," according to the coroner's news release.
She was described as black with brown eyes and short black hair.
At the time of her death, the woman was wearing a brown coat, black long sleeve snow suit, black pants, brown jeans and a yellow rope used as a belt.
A death investigation team was dispatched to 7770 Corrine Drive, beneath the overpass, at about 4:10 p.m. The woman was pronounced dead at 5:15 p.m.
The woman sustained no apparent injuries. Her manner of death is pending.
Anyone with information regarding this Jane Doe is asked to call the Lake County Coroner’s Office at 219-755-3265.
Crown Point police dog honored for role in capture of double-murder suspect
CROWN POINT — The city honored one of its police dogs and his handler for assisting Merrillville Police in capturing a suspect in a December double homicide.
On Dec. 28, Robert Stewart, of Merrillville, was charged with two counts of murder — along with enhancements for using a gun during the crime — in the shooting deaths of Ryan Halbe, 27, and his mother, Candy Halbe, 55, in the 2400 block of West 61st Place, Lake Criminal Court records show.
Police had responded at about 9:20 p.m. Dec. 26 to the home for a report of two people shot. Around the same time, Crown Point K-9 officer Stanko Gligic used his police dog Radar to track down Stewart hiding blocks away in a shed after he ran from the scene still armed.
Police Chief Pete Land said Radar was able to pick up the scent and track it in the cold and snow. The track went for approximately 1 mile through residential areas and led them to a shed in a backyard of a residence.
Not knowing if the suspect was still armed, Land said that Gligic began to give commands to the suspect to throw his weapon out and come out of the shed, with the suspect refusing.
Although realizing sending Radar into the shed could lead to his being shot, Gligic sent Radar into the structure, where the K-9 was able to grab the subject and drag him out enough for Merrillville officers to take him into custody without any officers getting hurt.
Crown Point's City Council during its February meeting named Radar and Gligic as employees of the month.
“This could have just gone to the Merrillville officers as well," Gligic said. "There was awesome teamwork.”
Gligic said the recognition is a testimony to how hard police and police dogs train.
"We always train as hard as we can so we can be prepared for these situations," he said. "I’ll cherish this one for how well Radar did."