HAMMOND | Federal authorities have charged two Gary men with armed robbery of a BMO Harris Bank on Friday in the city's Woodmar section. A Hammond police officer was shot and severely wounded in the robbery.
Police arrested David Lee Hardin and Brealon Miller Jr., both 24, following a brief high-speed chase ending at Gary's Brunswick Park when officers boxed in the getaway car near Eighth Avenue and Hovey Street. Officers recovered two firearms and money believed to have been taken from the bank, Hammond Police Chief Brian Miller said.
Miller said the two men admitted their involvement in the robbery during questioning.
A 34-year-old officer was shot outside the bank by one of the suspects, police said. The officer was in stable condition late Friday afternoon at a local hospital, where he is being treated for three gunshot wounds in the leg.
Miller declined to name the officer until all family members were notified. Miller said the officer has served 13 months on the force.
The crime took place at a bank where a teller was killed 24 years ago.
Police were called at 10:49 a.m. Friday about a robbery in progress at BMO Harris Bank, 7250 Indianapolis Blvd. Miller said the caller to the department's E-911 dispatch center had been talking to a teller at the bank when the teller reported the robbery and dropped the phone.
Miller said the suspects took an undetermined amount of cash from the bank and at least one customer's wallet at gunpoint before fleeing on foot. No one inside the bank was injured.
He said the 34-year-old officer, the first responder, had just arrived at the bank and hadn't even gotten out of his squad car before the suspects fired eight shots at him with a 9mm handgun taken from a security guard at the bank.
Bullets also shattered the squad's rear driver's side window.
Miller said a civilian driving nearby spotted the shooting and followed the two men in his car, helping give police directions.
A 38-year-old Valparaiso man told The Times he was driving to his parent's house near the bank when he heard gunshots and saw the two suspects running between houses west to Magoun Avenue, where they jumped into a car and fled north and east into Gary.
The man said he gave a running description of the suspects' path until police caught up.
U.S. Attorney David Capp said Friday the two suspects made their initial appearance later Friday afternoon before a U.S. magistrate judge. They will be held in federal custody until a detention hearing scheduled for 1 p.m. Thursday in U.S. District Court in Hammond.
Assistant U.S. Attorney David Nozick is working with Hammond and Gary police, the FBI, the Gang Response Investigative Team and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives on the case.
Miller said the state also may file charges in connection with the officer's shooting. He said authorities are investigating whether the defendants have any prior criminal history.
The bank's address was the scene of a fatal robbery Oct. 18, 1988.
Evelyn Sostaric, the wife of retired Hammond police Officer Frank Sostaric, died after being shot in the head by one of three bank robbers while working as a teller in the then-Mercantile National Bank branch.
The killer, Brian Houchin, who was 16 at the time and from Hammond, was convicted by a Lake Criminal Court jury that recommended the death penalty, but the judge sentenced him to 58 years in prison. Houchin is scheduled to be released in 2017.