PORTAGE — A prayer walk and vigil was held Sunday for a Portage man who was killed April 22 in an officer-involved shooting. 

Almost 50 people, including family, friends and officials, gathered in front of the home of William D. Spates in the 2700 block of Brown Street. They then marched around the corner down the 5300 block of Royal Street where the shooting occurred. 

According to the Porter County Sheriff's Department, which is investigating the shooting with the assistance of the Indiana State Police, Spates attempted to run over Portage police Officer Grant Crizer during a traffic stop in the driveway of a home on Royal Avenue.

The Sheriff's Office said Crizer made a traffic stop on a blue 2004 Jeep Liberty at approximately 1:47 a.m. that Saturday and Spates pulled into the driveway on Royal Avenue. At some point the suspect put his vehicle into reverse and accelerated rapidly into the officer’s fully-marked squad car, striking it, police said. Witnesses initially reported hearing the officer yelling commands to the driver, and an engine revving, followed by six to seven shots fired, according to a news release from police.

According to police they could not specifically answer whether all the shots were fired by Crizer or if Spates had a weapon. Police said that is still under investigation.

Spates had been released from jail on bond on April 21 Friday. A 10-day no-contact order had been issued when he was arrested. His home is just around the corner from where the shooting occurred. Spates was arrested April 19, and accused of battering his wife and two children.

At Sunday's vigil, Marina Spates stood with her children and said her husband was a good person who loved to help others. 

"He was never the type who would try to resist from police," she said.

Pamela Stone, Spate's mother, said he was "a good family man."

Latroy Ray, Spates' father, said justice is going to have to be served.

"It can be your brother tomorrow or one of my other sons the next day," he said. "And it's going on around the country. We've got to have answers."

Jack Burnett, a friend of Ray's who said he traveled from Minneapolis to offer his support, said there doesn't have to be "an archaeological dig or big study" to know what happened. 

"It's pure racism," he said. "As long as we argue with it from that point of view, his civil rights have been violated. If we try to put anything else on it, they're going to bury this case in a mountain of paper work. I've seen it done."

The vigil was led by Apostle Marvin East, a Gary minister who pointed out that they were not there in anger, but with a hunger and thirst for the truth.

"You cannot sweep this under the rug," he said. "The family wants justice, the community needs justice, the nation needs justice." 

East wants to know the reason for the traffic stop.

"I'm not even on the black and white issue," he said. "I'm on protocol. Apostle. Was protocol followed?" 

Hammond City Councilman Anthony Higgs was at the vigil and said there are some unanswered questions that need to be resolved not just for the family but the entire region. "And if no one steps up and speaks out, this will continue to happen," he said. "We don't want to see anyone, no matter what color you are, have something of this nature happen to them." 

Lorraine East, of the NAACP, said they plan to have a vigil in that area every month until they get answers.

"We're going to get justice," she said. "I'm not going to stop until it happens." 


Rob covers urban affairs and other matters in Crown Point, St. John, Winfield and beyond. Previously he covered Valparaiso, Hammond, Gary and East Chicago. He's also written for various magazines and pens a culture blog for The Times.