CROWN POINT | The driver of a dark blue, late-model GMC Sierra or Yukon has become the focus of a Lake County police investigation into a hit-and-run that killed one jail correctional officer and injured three other officers Tuesday.
Police said the driver accelerated into the officers just before impact.
Correctional Officer Britney Meux, 25, of the 100 block of North West Street in Crown Point, died at the scene.
A vigil for Meux was held Wednesday night at the Lake County Government Complex and near where the four were struck. Family and friends asked for the driver of the SUV to come forward.
"I pray to God that you have a heart and turn yourself in," said Meux's mother, Jackie Meux.
Earlier Wednesday, Lake County Sheriff John Buncich said during a news conference the officers couldn't see the car speeding up behind them as they jogged single file on the edge of 93rd Avenue. But "one of the officers said he heard a loud revving of the engine, and simultaneously they were struck," he said.
Buncich said the driver had to go off the pavement partially to hit the four law enforcement officers who were "off to the side of the road." They were jogging along a well-lighted section of the four-lane road just west of Main Street and north of Lake County Jail, where the officers work guarding criminal defendant inmates.
"There was no attempt (by the driver) to stop," he said.
Lake County police said there is a $10,000 reward offered for the arrest and conviction of the person or people responsible for the hit-and-run. The reward is being offered by Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 125, the Lake County Police Union Local 72, Correctional Officer Union Local 11 and one private donor.
Buncich said investigators have been working around the clock since the crash took place Tuesday night to comb through video from the Lake County Government Complex and nearby businesses.
The sheriff said they are concentrating on a car that left the government center's parking lot without headlights about that time.
"We are pursuing that lead," Buncich said, adding police are keeping an open mind about whether it was an accident or the driver was targeting the officers.
Buncich said Meux was a three-year veteran of the correctional department and the single mother of a 5-month-old daughter, Savannah. She graduated from Gary's Lew Wallace High School and was attending Indiana University Northwest.
She was a veteran of the U.S. Marines.
"I knew her as little in stature, but she was a real go-getter," Buncich said. "Officers knew her as smart, disciplined, hardworking and dependable. It's sad. We have lost one of our family."
The other officers injured:
- David Murchek, 26, of Crown Point, is a five-year veteran of the department and the son of County Assistant Police Chief Daniel Murchek. He was in fair condition early Wednesday and he was about to undergo surgery for a broken leg.
- Latasha Johnson is a five-year veteran of the department and a Gary resident. She suffered a broken arm and internal injuries. She was reported in fair condition.
- Delano Scaife, 22, also is the son of a law enforcement officer. He was transported to the Indiana University Medical Center in Indianapolis for extensive surgery and was in critical condition Wednesday.
Buncich said investigators recovered a passenger-side mirror torn from the hit-and-run vehicle by the force of the impact. He said the vehicle also sustained extensive front-end and passenger-side damage.
Buncich said local police were scouring the streets and auto repair stores for the vehicle, which the driver likely has hidden. He asked residents to call the sheriff's office at (219) 755-3333 if they spot it or if they have any other information about the hit-and-run.
The sheriff said the suspect's vehicle appears to be either a 1999 to 2006 GMC Sierra or a 2003 to 2006 Yukon.