Police coping with loss of one their own while searching for suspect

2012-03-07T18:00:00Z 2012-03-12T20:00:39Z Police coping with loss of one their own while searching for suspectBy Bill Dolan bill.dolan@nwi.com, (219) 662-5328 nwitimes.com

CROWN POINT | Lake County's law enforcement community is channeling its hurt and rage into a search for the driver who struck four correctional officers, killing one.

Investigators have a shattered dark blue side mirror, and now they want the rest of the SUV to which it was attached and the person behind the wheel.

"We are using every possible means," Sheriff John Buncich told a Wednesday morning news conference. "The officers want this thing solved when one of our own is killed."

County, Crown Point and Merrillville police were searching body shops for a damaged GMC Sierra or Yukon and the social network for chatter, and begging the public to forward any tips their way. "Somebody has to know something about this vehicle," Buncich said.

Pedestrians in the Crown Point downtown square, a mile or so from the crash scene, had little to say Wednesday about the deadly incident. "It's terrible," one woman said.

Jim Boyles, who'd stopped to rest at a corner green space, said he wished more could have been done to safeguard the joggers. "It's frustrating," Boyles said.

Police have a tantalizing security camera video of a car pulling out of a nearby parking lot without its headlights on and are dealing with questions about whether it was an accident or an ambush.

Buncich was asked if the victims were targeted. "We don't know. We are looking at every lead we have," he said. "The car without lights on. We are pursuing that vigorously. Why did he flee? There isn't any evidence of brakes being used. Obviously the individual fled for a reason."

On Tuesday night, Buncich visited two local hospitals where the three survivors — David Murchek, Latasha Johnson and Delano Scaife — were being treated, consoled family members of fallen Officer Britney Meux and returned to the county police headquarters.

"The mood was somber," Buncich said. "How do you cope with something like this?

"You think of any number of on-the-job injuries, but jogging? It was part of their training routine. Some were on the Tactical Team or were in training for the Special Operations Response Team. They routinely run around the circumference of the Government Complex, and last night was a nice warm evening for it," Buncich said.

The calm was broken at 7:01 p.m. Tuesday by David Murchek, one of the injured correctional officers who managed to send off a brief 911 cellphone call for help and description of what had just happened, despite the shock of his broken leg.

Buncich said, "The response was almost instantaneous because it was so close to the police station and nobody wanted to go home last night. When it's one of your own, you are going through everything," he said.

The sheriff said the Indiana Fraternal Order of Police's Critical Incident Team has assembled to deal with future arrangements with Meux's family while department chaplains counseled correctional officers who had to go on duty as usual despite the tragedy.

When asked what advice he would give the hit-and-run driver, Buncich said, "Come forth, and let's talk. Understand what we are going through. We just want to see what this was all about and put this to rest."

Times Staff Writer Susan Erler contributed to this report.

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