Jury acquits suspect in I-80/94 murder case

2013-03-16T19:45:00Z Jury acquits suspect in I-80/94 murder caseTimes Staff nwitimes.com
March 16, 2013 7:45 pm  • 

CROWN POINT | A Lake County jury on Friday found a Gary man not guilty on all counts including murder in a shooting last year on I-80/94 in Gary.

Jurors deliberated less than four hours Friday afternoon before finding 30-year-old Rickey Smith not guilty in the fatal Sept. 12 shooting of Tyron Hopkins, 44, on the southbound Grant Street ramp at Interstate 80/94.

Smith and the dead man's brother, Larry Hopkins, had a longstanding feud over a woman both had been dating, Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Michael Toth told jurors when the trial opened Monday.

Larry Hopkins was one of two men who, after encountering Smith at a gas station, believed Smith was following them, Toth told jurors.

Hoping to deter their pursuer, the men detoured into the parking lot of a fast-food restaurant where a police squad car was parked, according to Toth. Smith continued the pursuit and the men contacted Tyron Hopkins, Toth alleged.

When all three cars reached the Grant Street ramp, Smith pulled up beside Tyron Hopkins' Ford Escort and fired five times into the car, striking Hopkins in the head before fleeing, Toth said.

However, defense attorney Thomas Vanes argued Smith fired in self-defense after being stalked by the other men and after his car was "boxed in" between the other two vehicles.

Vanes told jurors it was Smith who was being pursued and that Tyron Hopkins had been called in for reinforcement.

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