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2 Gary officers involved in deadly shootout

Police talk on Feb. 26 during an investigation into a shootout in Gary that left Dvontai Wright, 25, of Griffith, dead and wounded four other men. Lake County sheriff's police confirmed Tuesday that two Gary officers were involved in the shooting.

Jeff Dildine, The Times

GARY — A 26-year-old man is accused of shooting at a police officer trying to break up a large crowd outside a nightclub earlier this year as several people exchanged gunfire, Lake Criminal Court records show.

Chauncey Lavance Hackett Jr., of East Chicago, faces one count each of attempted murder and carrying a handgun without a license in connection with the Feb. 26 incident, according to a probable cause affidavit filed Tuesday.

Hackett fired several shots at the Gary police officer outside the nightclub at 1700 Grant St., the affidavit stated. Online records list the business as Hustle and Joe’s. The affidavit, however, noted the club is known as "Top Shelf."

‘Bullets flying by’

Court documents paint a chaotic scene in the moments before and during the shootout, with one officer saying he could "hear bullets flying by him."

The shootout left Dvontai Wright, 25, of Griffith, dead and wounded four other men, but the affidavit does not indicate who fired the fatal shot at Wright that night.

Police had observed Wright “rapidly firing rounds” of bullets at several people in the nearby D&G's Soul Food parking lot, documents show. A semi-automatic weapon with an extended magazine was found lying between Wright’s legs, court documents state.

Because two Gary police officers discharged their weapons during the shootout, Lake County sheriff's police opened parallel investigations into the shootout and the use of force by the officers.

Lake County Sheriff Department spokesman Mark Back declined comment on the case Tuesday, noting they forwarded results to the Lake County prosecutor’s office.

Prosecutor Bernard Carter said Tuesday his office is reviewing potential charges against others involved.

Gary police Lt. Dawn Westerfield did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday.

Crowd prompts police response

At about 2:50 a.m., a Gary police officer noticed a crowd outside the nightclub, so he learned from security the club would be letting out at 3 a.m.

The officer requested additional units, records show. A second officer was already on scene and a Gary corporal officer arrived minutes later, court records show.

As two officers tried to clear the crowd, a woman ran up to them, saying a fight was occurring near 18th Avenue and Grant Street, the affidavit stated.

As officers headed that way, they “clearly heard the sound of firearms being discharged” so they drew their weapons, records state. 

One officer said he saw “two male blacks steadily firing shots at a crowd of people that were in the lot of the D&G’s” and “unknown persons firing shots towards a crowd of people that were standing in the parking of (an) auto repair shop.”

Hackett allegedly turned toward the first officer and opened fire as the same officer yelled “Police!" records show. 

A second officer involved in the shooting yelled, “Police, drop your weapon!” as Hackett turned to shoot, records show.

Police return fire

The first officer returned fire at Hackett, who then walked towards parked cars, dropped his empty magazine and reloaded, the affidavit stated.

Hackett was ordered to stop, but allegedly pointed his weapon at the officer, prompting the officer to return fire, the affidavit stated.

Hackett fell to the ground. Gary fire was dispatched. 

As several officers assessed the scene, two men were found on the ground — one with a gunshot wound to the leg and the other, later identified as Wright, riddled with bullets in his head and throughout his body, records show.

Two gunshot wound victims went to Methodist Northlake Hospital on their own — and two others, including Hackett, were transported from the scene via ambulance. Court records note none of the individuals wounded were in a condition to be interviewed at the hospital that night.

Prosecutor: Police actions ‘justified’

Carter said Tuesday afternoon his office determined the two Gary officers' "actions and reactions" that night were justified.

Both Gary officers discharged their weapons, but neither fatally struck Wright, Carter said Tuesday. It was not immediately known Tuesday if the officers' actions resulted in injury to others involved. 

Hackett was previously charged with murder in a 2012 East Chicago shooting. He pleaded in 2014 to obstruction of justice in connection with the incident, records show. 


Public safety reporter

Lauren covers breaking news, crime and courts for The Times. She previously worked at The Herald-News in Joliet covering government, public policy, and the region’s heroin epidemic. She holds a master’s degree in Public Affairs Reporting.