Here are the top 5 trending stories today.
Hammond police save 2 lives with overdose-blocking drug
HAMMOND — Police saved two people this week with an overdose-blocking drug originally issued to officers for personal use, a spokesman said.
Officers made the "saves" as overdose deaths across Northwest Indiana continued to increase, and Hammond last month joined a growing number of communities suing opioid manufacturers and distributors for their alleged role in causing the opioid addiction crisis.
Hammond police Officer Collin Lopez arrived to a home in the 4000 block of Sheffield Avenue on Christmas Day, and noticed a 21-year-old victim — identified by witnesses as a heroin user — was not breathing, Lt. Steve Kellogg said.
Lopez administered naloxone, and the 21-year-old started breathing again. The Hammond Fire Department arrived shortly after to continue treatment, he said.
On Tuesday, Officer Lindsey Fritz responded to a call in the 500 block of Kenwood Street and administered naloxone to a 41-year-old woman, Kellogg said. The woman was later transferred to a hospital.
Hammond police began carrying naloxone in September, after two officers required medical treatment following accidental exposure to heroin containing the potent drug Fentanyl.
The accidental exposures occurred Dec. 29, 2016, and Feb. 5 as officers were inventorying evidence from heroin arrests, Kellogg said.
In one case, the officer was wearing gloves and a face mask when the exposure occurred. It was unclear if gloves and a mask were worn in the other case.
Kellogg said Hammond police didn't previously consider carrying naloxone, because the Fire Department already carried it and typically arrived to calls before or immediately following police.
In the two saves this week, the officers arrived to the scene first and decided to use the naloxone issued for their personal use to save someone else, he said.
This is the second time this year that Hammond officers have used equipment issued to protect themselves to save others. Earlier this year, an officer used a tourniquet issued for personal use to save a gunshot victim from bleeding out before arriving at a hospital.
"Our officers have taken a tool meant for their safety and used it to save civilian lives in our community," Hammond police Chief John Doughty said in a statement. "They've saved lives with the tourniquets they carry, and now have another tool to aid in their efforts.
"I am proud of the empathy of our officers and their respect for life. We may not be able to solve the opioid epidemic, but we can offer these victims a second chance at life and recovery."
The Sheriff's Department and Northern Indiana Transportation District Transit Police were among the first in Lake County to begin carrying naloxone. Many departments in Porter and LaPorte counties began carrying the drug several years ago.
There were 114 overdose deaths in Lake County reported in 2016, 80 in 2015 and 68 in 2014, according to data provided by the Lake County coroner's office. Hammond had the second-highest number of overdose deaths in 2016 in Lake County, according to the city's lawsuit.
Murder charges filed against Merrillville man after family fight ends in shooting
MERRILLVILLE — Police have secured murder charges against a 35-year-old in connection with Tuesday’s double homicide that killed a mother and son.
Robert Stewart, of Merrillville, was charged Thursday with two counts of murder — along with enhancements for using a gun during the crime — in the shooting deaths of Ryan Halbe, 27, and his mother, Candy Halbe, 55, in the 2400 block of West 61st Place, Lake Criminal Court records show.
Police responded at about 9:20 p.m. Tuesday to the home for a report of two people shot. Around the same time, a Crown Point K-9 officer used a police dog to track down Stewart hiding blocks away in a shed.
In an interview with police, the suspect’s girlfriend told police Stewart lives with the family at Candy Halbe’s 61st Place home. She said Stewart has “issues with abusing alcohol” and “when he drinks, he gets violent,” according to court records.
The woman said while out running errands with Stewart and her young son, she questioned Stewart about his drinking, but he denied it, records show. When they returned home, a family argument ensued after an intoxicated Stewart allegedly “forcefully grabbed” and “pushed aside” a young child in the home.
Shortly after Candy Halbe and Stewart’s girlfriend began arguing with him in the basement, Ryan Halbe joined them and grabbed Stewart by the shoulder, prompting Stewart to grab a gun from his waistband, court records show.
The feud erupted in gunfire after Ryan Halbe said to Stewart, “Why you waving a gun around? I don’t want to kick your (expletive).”
As Stewart fled the home, Ryan Halbe bled out onto the floor, records show.
“Dad, I’m dying,” he said, as his mother, Candy Halbe, lay on a nearby mattress, bleeding from a gunshot wound to her stomach.
Ryan Halbe died late Tuesday at Methodist Hospitals Southlake Campus in Merrillville. Candy Halbe died early Thursday at Methodist Hospitals Northlake Campus in Gary.
Witnesses at the scene recall hearing three gunshots and saw Stewart fleeing the home with a gun. A person in the home allegedly had purchased the weapon for Stewart.
A K-9 officer used a police dog to track Stewart’s footprints in the snow to a shed in the 5700 block of Roosevelt Place. An officer located a .45 caliber Springfield XD weapon to the right of the footprints and a missing magazine about 15 feet away.
Upon arrival at the shed, a police dog was employed to apprehend Stewart because he refused to comply with commands to show his hands, step out of the shed and get to the ground, the affidavit stated.
Stewart was interviewed Thursday morning by police, records show. He told police he doesn’t remember much about the night, and that he blacks out often when he drinks.
He told police he “did not recall much until being at home that night, possibly getting into an argument (with his girlfriend), being downstairs and getting into a tussle with Ryan,” and then running and hopping fences, the affidavit stated.
He added he remembered “hearing gunshots but did not recall pulling out a gun, pointing a gun, or shooting Ryan and Candy (Halbe),” records show.
Stewart is in custody. An initial court appearance was not yet scheduled as of Thursday.
UPDATE: All I-94 westbound lanes reopened near Burns Harbor following morning crashes
BURNS HARBOR — All three westbound lanes of Interstate 94 near Burns Harbor have been reopened after officials cleared away two different early morning accidents, according to Indiana State Police.
The driver of a semi-trailer truck that rolled off the roadway was transported to an unknown hospital, according to police. His vehicle landed in the area between a ramp and the highway around 8:30 a.m.
There had been attempts bring an emergency medical helicopter to the area.
There was also a three-vehicle crash on the highway in the same area involving two semi-trailer trucks, police said. That crash involved just property damage.
Gary police seek information about fatal hit-and-run
GARY — Police are investigating an apparent hit-and-run crash that left a 29-year-old man dead Sunday, a spokeswoman said.
Lonnie Gerald, of Gary, died on the Interstate 80/94 overpass at Burr Street in Gary from blunt force trauma injuries, according to the Lake County coroner's office.
Gary police were dispatched to the area for a crash with injuries and found a man lying in the street, Lt. Dawn Westerfield said.
No vehicles involved in the crash were located, she said.
The manner of Gerald's death was pending.
Anyone with information is asked to call police Sgt. Michael Jackson at 219-881-7485. To remain anonymous, call 866-CRIME-GP.
Electrical connection could be cause in early morning Valparaiso fire
VALPARAISO — The Fire Department quickly extinguished a fire in an unoccupied home Friday morning.
The department was dispatched for the report of a structure fire at 6:45 a.m., according to a press release from spokesman Robert Schulte.
Upon arrival, firefighters found smoke coming from the eaves of a bungalow-style home at 407 Michigan Ave. Firefighters entered the building to find heavy smoke and fire in the floor of the kitchen. The fire was followed back to an interior wall in the basement of the home.
The fire was extinguished quickly, resulting in minimal fire and water damage. However, the structure suffered heavy smoke damage.
The fire was discovered by a passerby. The home was an unoccupied rental at the time of the fire.
Through an investigation, it appears as though an electrical connection in the basement caused the fire, the release said.