Shooting victim describes encounter with shooter; manhunt continues

2010-10-06T16:45:00Z 2011-09-30T13:35:20Z Shooting victim describes encounter with shooter; manhunt continuesBy Rich Bird and Lauri Harvey Keagle Times Staff nwitimes.com
October 06, 2010 4:45 pm  • 

A construction worker shot Tuesday near Beecher described to relatives how a man who approached and asked about scrap wood opened fire moments later. Meanwhile, police in Indiana and Illinois continued their search for the gunman.

Nineteen-year-old Josh Garza, of Dyer, remained at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, Ill., in critical condition Wednesday morning, said great-aunt Peggy Cassoday, of Rensselaer.

Garza was with two other employees of Dyer-based Rich Construction at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday at a residential construction site in the 32000 block of Stony Island Avenue in Washington Township, Ill., when the gunman started talking to them, before shooting two of them.

One victim, Rolando Alonso, 45, of Hammond, was pronounced dead at 2:55 p.m. by the Will County coroner's office. Garza was airlifted in critical condition to Advocate Christ Medical Center.

"(The shooter) says, 'What about this wood? What are going to do with it?' My nephew said, 'You can take whatever you want.' So the guy took four or five steps away from him, turned around and when Josh picked up the wheelbarrow to move it, the guy turned around and started shooting.

"He was bent over," she said. "That was the only thing that saved his life."

Cassoday said a bullet entered Garza's right eye, and exited the back of his head, leaving bullet fragments in his brain. Doctors are waiting for swelling in Garza's brain to go down before attempting surgery to remove the fragments, she said, adding that doctors were able to remove a breathing tube because Garza can breathe on his own.

Farmer Keith Dahl remains hospitalized. He was shot at 11:28 a.m. near 201st and Cline avenues in Lowell before the gunman fled.

Dahl, who is in his mid-60s, was taken to St. Anthony Medical Center in Crown Point. He was in serious condition Wednesday night, a hospital supervisor said.

Will County Sheriff's Department spokesman Pat Barry said the search for the suspect continued through the night following the shooting.

"We've been chasing leads mainly generated by the media," Barry said early Wednesday.

Many police departments Wednesday morning reported being flooded with phone calls from residents concerned about unsubstantiated rumors they'd heard primarily through online social networks about mass casualties or the gunman being spotted in their communities.

Police are searching for a white man in his 30s or 40s between 5 feet 10 inches and 6 feet tall weighing between 220 and 260 pounds. He was wearing a greenish blue jacket, baseball hat and light jeans at the time the crimes occurred and appeared to be disheveled.

He was seen driving a silver or gray 1990s Chevrolet pickup truck, possibly a Cheyenne.

The shooter is considered armed and dangerous. Police are advising anyone who believes they have seen the suspect to take safety precautions and call 911.

Tri-Creek School Corp. in Lowell placed all schools on lockdown Tuesday as a precaution and chose to close all schools on Wednesday as the manhunt continues.

All Lowell High School after-school sporting events have been postponed for a second day because of the closing of the school as well. The girls soccer game against Munster and the girls volleyball game against Andrean were originally scheduled for Tuesday. The soccer gamer has been rescheduled to Saturday and the volleyball game will be played on Monday.

Lake Central School Corp. officials confirmed schools there are not on a full lockdown but are keeping students indoors for physical education classes and recess.

The Crown Point Community School Corp. issued an exterior lockdown with indoor recess and limited evening activities.

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