Lake County prosecutor to seek extradition of Whiting homicide suspect

2012-08-07T17:45:00Z 2012-08-08T11:24:05Z Lake County prosecutor to seek extradition of Whiting homicide suspectTimes Staff and Wire Reports
August 07, 2012 5:45 pm  • 

CROWN POINT | Lake County Prosecutor Bernard Carter said he will move to return a former East Chicago man here to be tried for a 13-year-old Whiting homicide.

Carter said Tuesday his office will prepare a writ of extradition if 31-year-old Frank Perez Jr. refuses to voluntarily return for trial.

Perez had been on the run since he was accused of fatally shooting Jose Pena Jr., 24, of Gary, in the head and stomach July 13, 1999, in Whiting's normally quiet downtown. Police at the time said the killing was gang related.

Perez is in federal custody after a U.S. District judge in Pittsburgh sentenced him to 15 years for firing shots at FBI agents during a standoff in a nearby suburb last fall. The federal judge rejected pleas for leniency because of Perez's violent upbringing in a gang-plagued East Chicago.

Police at the time said the homicide started as an argument between the men in front of an apartment building entrance near 119th Street and Sheridan Place, a main thoroughfare of Whiting's business district, that escalated.

Police said witnesses identified as the shooter from a photo lineup.

Police said Perez was initially in hiding in Lake County, surfacing briefly during a 2004 high-speed auto chase from Highland to East Chicago, where he fled on foot from a Ford Expedition in an alley in the 4800 block of Northcote Avenue and eluded a brief manhunt.

He remained at large until an FBI SWAT team surrounded an apartment building outside of Pittsburgh on Oct. 4 to arrest him. Authorities said he barricaded himself inside and fired at least 20 times at agents with two pistols and a 12-gauge shotgun before he finally surrendered hours later.

Perez's mother, Margaret Velazquez, asked U.S. District Judge Nora Barry Fischer to be lenient, explaining her son's behavior by noting he saw his first dead body at 8, when someone was slain behind their house in East Chicago.

She said he later fell in with the wrong crowd — including his stepfather — who was involved in "the streets" that included drugs, violence and prostitution. Prosecutors also contend Perez was a gang member, though his mother insisted her son wasn't in the gang but had friends who were.

Times staff writer Bill Dolan contributed to this report.

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