GARY — The city’s top cop said Monday his department has beefed up patrols, called on outside agencies and even deployed SWAT team members to assist after a deadly weekend left one person dead and 16 others wounded.
The sudden eruption of gun violence in his city is “unsettling, to say the least,” Gary Police Chief Richard Allen said during a news conference Monday surrounded by his department’s leadership, Indiana University Northwest law enforcement and members from Indiana State Police.
Police were called to a report of a shooting at 5:45 p.m. Saturday. Hours later, gunfire erupted at a massive social gathering at Ironwood Park, wounding three. The last shots of the weekend rang out just before 11 p.m. Sunday, killing one person and injuring three others.
Police also are investigating that homicide reported at 10:54 p.m. Sunday in the 2500 block of Harrison Street, records show. Four men were shot, including one who died from his injuries. The Lake County coroner’s office identified the victim as 19-year-old Jazaniel Davis, of Merrillville.
“These senseless and egregious acts must stop," Allen said. "Not only does it cause an emotional drain on the spirit of our city but it casts a shadow on the progress we have made."
Police and the city are working with businesses, community advocates and other law enforcement partners to curb the violence, he said.
‘Did someone disrespect someone?’
Cmdr. Jack Hamady, head of investigations, said no arrests have been made despite evidence left behind at several crime scenes, including shell casings, weapons, video surveillance and eyewitness statements. Detectives are working around the clock to review evidence, he said.
Hamady said many, but not all, of the shootings may be connected to past gang disputes in the city, and some may have been carried out as retaliatory acts for past gang murders. It’s difficult to pin the shootings to one or two particular gangs, he said, with the shootings having occurred all across the city.
Hamady said police are investigating what led to the shooting at Ironwood Park on East 24th Avenue late Saturday night, when 150 people or so were there for a social gathering that began during the daylight hours and spilled into the evening.
“It’s a lot of fresh information from over the weekend and we’re still digesting a lot of it and seeing why, if they were at the Ironwood Park, why all of the sudden did it become violent? Why did we have three individuals shot there, and then another individual shot and the violence continued?” Hamady said.
“Did someone disrespect someone? Did someone go out with somebody’s girlfriend or wife? What is the reason behind it? In the end, I think it’s got past history, it has past scars, and I think when they got together and you bring in some alcohol into it ... I think that’s what the ultimate root of this problem will be,” Hamady said.
In the Ironwood Park shooting, a 17-year-old Gary girl and 25-year-old Gary woman were wounded. A 25-year-old Gary man later arrived at a local hospital for treatment of a gunshot wound to the leg.
Three more people were wounded about 12:30 a.m. Sunday in the area of Fifth Avenue and Grant Street. A 20-year-old Gary man, a 17-year-old girl and a 22-year-old Indianapolis man told police a vehicle pulled up alongside their car and someone began shooting at them.
A 24-year-old man was shot in the torso about 2:25 a.m. Sunday in the 500 block of Buchanan Street, police said.
About 1:15 p.m. Sunday, a 21-year-old Gary man and his 25-year-old brother were shot as they sat in a vehicle in the 3700 block of Monroe Street.
A 32-year-old Gary man was wounded about 4:30 p.m. Sunday as he drove in the area of West 25th Avenue and Clark Road. It was unclear if the man was shot or wounded by flying debris from his front windshield, which was struck by gunfire, police said.
On Sunday evening, a 23-year-old Gary man was shot in the side as he played basketball at Tolleston Park in the 2600 block of West 15th Avenue. Police also saw a 15-year-old boy on a bicycle walk into the hospital with a gunshot wound.
Extra patrols, community partners
Extra patrols have beefed up in the city’s Glen Park, Midtown, and Oak Knoll sections, among other neighborhoods, Hamady said. Police have also been knocking on doors and passing out fliers in hopes witnesses will come forward with information.
Police said they are calling on state police, federal ATF, IUN police, Gary For Life leaders, and the community for assistance.
“If you see something, hear something, say something,” Allen said. “If you hear a gunshot, report it to us.”
Lake County Sheriff Oscar Martinez said seven to 12 officers from his High Crime Unit and patrol division will focus for at least the next few weeks on high-crime areas of Gary.
The areas will be determined based on intelligence gathered by police, and there will be no set schedule for patrols, he said.
There is currently no need for overtime, he said. Martinez said he would consider taking a request for overtime to the Lake County Council in the future, depending on public safety needs.
Joy Holliday, coordinator for the anti-crime Gary For Life program, said the G4L team has been working tirelessly to map out potential people associated with those involved in the shooting to determine if and how the incidents are connected.
“First was getting together with the team to figure out what exactly occurred and finding associates connected to the incidents. The team then creates a map of those individuals and try to determine whether they are related,” she said. “That’s what we’ve been doing pretty much all day today.”
The Gary For Life anti-crime program uses targeted enforcement actions in high-crime areas to reduce gang violence while also deploying mentoring, employment assistance, and youth violence prevention strategies.
A collective effort to curb violence
Holliday said targeted enforcement actions are already underway, and the resources are available to carry out parallel targeted patrols in other parts of the city to curb violence, she said.
“This is going to be a blanketed effort throughout the city,” she said. “Those who are driving the violence in our city, those are ones who are going to get the attention of all our law enforcement.”
Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson said she and the police chief plan to recommend the City Council enact a city ordinance amendment that could curb violence at social clubs and businesses in Gary. She said she would like to adopt an ordinance that triggers a review of the business license if a particular business is found to be attracting or accepting of gang violence.
Holliday urged residents not to pass judgment on the Gary For Life program, enacted in 2014, for this weekend’s eruption of violence.
Despite the rash of violence this weekend, Gary has seen 59 gunshot wound victims so far this year, down from 64 around the same time last year. Gun violence is overall down since Gary For Life began in 2014, she said.
“We would ask not to judge us by one moment in time,” Holliday said. “Take it as a collective effort we’ve had in the last three years.”
Residents were urged to report gunfire or provide other information that might help in preventing or detecting crime, especially when gun violence is involved.
To report violent crime, call detectives at 219-881-1210. To remain anonymous, call 866-CRIME-GP.
Gallery: Recent arrests booked into Lake County Jail