One man was killed and two others injured in an early morning shooting Saturday that caused a vehicle to careen off the Grant Street bridge in Gary and fall onto an I-80/94 westbound ramp, according to Indiana State Police.
The vehicle was headed to a restaurant at about 5:15 a.m. when shots were fired from a second vehicle, hitting the driver multiple times, according to a police press release.
The vehicle went off the roadway into a grassy area and over the concrete bridge on Grant Street, falling approximately 23 feet onto the westbound ramp of I-80/94, the release states.
The driver was identified Saturday afternoon by the Lake County Coroner's Office as Dalvontaye M. Kelly, 24, of Gary. He was pronounced dead at 7:35 a.m., according to a coroner's office press release.
The front-seat passenger, a 23-year-old Gary man, was shot multiple times, and a 20-year-old Gary man seated in the back of the vehicle was shot once, the police news release said.
Both passengers were transported to Methodist Hospitals North Lake Hospital, where they were treated for non-life threatening injuries.
The interstate ramp was closed until about 9:45 a.m. as police investigated the shooting and removed the vehicle, the release states.
No description of the suspect vehicle was available, according to police. Anyone with information is asked to call detective Brian McCall of Indiana State Police at 219-696-6242.
The Lake County Major Crimes Task Force and Gary Fire Department also assisted at the scene.
Central Grocers’ sudden and stunning collapse imperiled Strack & Van Til, almost allowing rival Jewel-Osco to buy out the nearly six-decade-old Northwest Indiana institution and wipe the supermarket brand from the landscape.
But the unexpected bankruptcy of the Joliet-based cooperative, which was the seventh-largest grocery wholesaler in the United States, also has shaken up things for many independent grocers across Northwest Indiana, such as Walt’s Food Center in Dyer, Miller K Market in Miller, Sam’s Market in Gary and Central Market in Lake Station.
"Central Grocers' exit has left a big gaping hole in the industry," said Zafar Sheikh, president of Central Market.
Owned collectively by the same supermarkets it supplied, Central Grocers served more than 400 independent grocery stores, mostly concentrated in the Chicago area and Northwest Indiana but also in Michigan, Iowa and Wisconsin. Those grocers, often old-school neighborhood markets or corner stores with hand-painted signs, have been scrambling to find other suppliers since Central Grocers went bankrupt and disrupted the way many stores operated for decades.
Central Grocers, which unsuccessfully tried to find a buyer to take it over, said in its bankruptcy filing that it had trouble competing in an increasingly crowded marketplace, especially on price and organic items. It lost many customers during the past year when member stores closed, such as Sterk's Super Foods in East Chicago and Super Save Foods in Michigan City. Ray's Super Foods in North Judson switched suppliers when it was bought out by Heartland Groceries two years ago.
Picking up the pieces
With Central Grocers exiting the market, independent grocers across Northwest Indiana and the Chicago area have been forced to turn to new wholesalers to stock their shelves. Some fear the absence of a local cooperative, which offered rebates to its members, could increase prices marketwide and that it could take a while for new suppliers to restore product variety shoppers have become accustomed to seeing.
“It has a big impact. We had to find a new supplier when we’re an in-between store. The bigger guys didn’t want us,” said Mike Mussa, the manager of Eastside Fresh Meat & Produce in LaPorte.
His grocery store at 4666 W. U.S. 20 in LaPorte ended up switching to Michigan-based SpartanNash.
“They’ve been good to us,” he said. “We’re getting used to them."
But any potential replacement is a for-profit that would take an additional cut for its own profit margins, while Central Grocers was owned by member stores, Mussa said.
"It’s not a co-op. It’s not member-owned," he said of his new supplier. "Central Grocers wasn’t there to make a profit. We received excess profits back as rebates. It was shared. We hated to see Central Grocers go.”
County Line Market, at 5035 Central Ave. in Lake Station, has felt ripple effects from the bankruptcy, but never used Central Grocers as a wholesaler because it was too small to attract their interest.
“Centrella did enough volume where it was a minimum order of $10,000,” manager Wally Musa said. “They delivered by the pallet. You had to get bottled water or canned corn by the pallet.”
Central Grocers’ departure means one fewer competitor in the marketplace, Musa said. But he’s noticed that other wholesalers have been raising prices since Central Grocers went under, increasing them by about 10 percent.
“Mostly, it’s sad,” he said. “It’s upsetting. It’s a good thing on the retail side, but prices have gone up in the market.”
Now the co-op, which once banked $2 billion a year, including as much as $1.1 billion from Strack & Van Til, is folding a century after it was founded by 32 shareholders in 1917. Minneapolis-based rival Supervalu bought its 930,000-square-foot warehouse in Joliet out of bankruptcy court for $61 million.
Battle for market share
Kansas City-based Associated Wholesale Grocers also recently built a distribution center in southeast Wisconsin and has been gaining ground in the Chicago area market, including in Northwest Indiana. First Choice Market, at 5600 Sohl Ave. in Hammond, has been relying on AWG as its main supplier.
“We’ve gone with AWG,” First Choice Market owner Frank Carilla said. “It seems like they’re getting stronger and stronger. They’ve made strides.”
Carilla said it has been an ongoing process of adjustment to the market for AWG because it must familiarize itself with products that are popular in the Chicago metropolitan area, including Oscar Mayer hot dogs.
“Ultra leaving the market leaves a big gap in the community,” he said. “For us, the blow coming from Centrella leaving was offset by increased retail business coming to us. Centrella was a really good company that had cheaper prices.”
First Choice Market used to get between 70 and 80 percent of its business from Central Grocers, but now gets about 50 percent from AWG and 50 percent from smaller suppliers. Carilla said it now takes far more homework to get good prices, by scouring alternatives for meats, produce and other items.
“We’re here for our customers,” he said. “We’ve got to keep our prices low because once you lose a customer, it’s hard to bring them back. We’ve got to be fair on price so they stay loyal. The big stores like Ultra wanted all of your money; we just want some of your money.”
A 35-year-old Lowell man faces a felony charge of operating an off-road vehicle while intoxicated and causing a crash that landed another man in the hospital with a severe leg injury, according to police.
The crash occurred shortly after midnight Sunday in the area of 157th Place and Truman Street, according to the law enforcement branch of the Indiana Department of Natural Resources.
Officers said Mark Runyon was driving a Can-Am Maverick side-by-side vehicle down the road at a high rate of speed when he lost control and it rolled, ejecting a 46-year-old man, who was a passenger.
The passenger was transported to Franciscan Health in Crown Point.
VALPARAISO — Three men, who reportedly jumped out of a moving vehicle while being pursued by police, were later apprehended early Sunday in connection with thefts from parked cars.
The men are David Workman, 25, of California, and Damion McCarver, 18, and Tyiler McCarver, 20, both of Benton Harbor, Michigan.
Police said they received a call at 2:50 a.m. Sunday about suspicious activity near parked cars in the 4700 block of Andover Court.
When police attempted to stop a vehicle in question on Campbell Street at Spectacle Lake Drive, they said it continued into Rogers Lakewood Park. The three men jumped out, allowing the vehicle to continue moving and crashing into a nearby tree.
The men were apprehended by police and are accused of entering parked vehicles and stealing items. Police said they found numerous stolen items in their vehicle.
Workman faces charges of theft, resisting arrest, leaving the scene of a crash and possession of a legend drug, police said. Damion McCarver faces charges of theft, resisting arrest and identity deception. Tyiler McCarver faces charges of theft and resisting law enforcement.
PORTER — Authorities recovered a 21-year-old Plainfield man's body early Monday in waters off Porter Beach after disappearing the night before when his kayak overturned.
Alex Lopez was kayaking with two friends about 150 yards offshore from Porter Beach when their boats capsized shortly after 5 p.m. Sunday, according to Indiana Department of Natural Resources conservation police.
Lopez's two friends were wearing life jackets and were able to stay afloat and summon help, authorities said.
Lopez, who could not be rescued, was not wearing a life jacket at the time of recovery, Porter County Coroner Chuck Harris said.
Several agencies responded Sunday night, searching for Lopez for several hours before postponing further efforts until morning.
About 7 a.m. Monday, a Coast Guard helicopter located a body floating in the water and directed members of the Porter Fire Department to the area for recovery, authorities said.
Lopez's body was recovered from 10 feet of water, Harris said.
Conservation police said the Lopez's death is being investigated as a boating accident, and alcohol may have been a contributing factor. Toxicology test results are pending, authorities said.
Other agencies assisting included Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore rangers, Porter police, Lake County Sheriff's Department, and fire departments from Burns Harbor, Chesterton and Portage.
The FBI on Monday released a sketch of a person of interest in the pipe bomb explosion earlier this month at the East Chicago post office.
One postal employee was injured in the explosion shortly after 5:30 p.m. Sept. 6 at the post office, 901 E. Chicago Ave.
The person of interest was described as white, about 6 feet tall and about 30 years old with a thin build and clean-shaven face. He wore dark-rimmed glasses, black pants with very slender legs, dark vinyl sneakers and a faded black sweatshirt with the hood up.
The man had a unique walk, according to the FBI's Indianapolis Division.
The single pipe bomb did not damage the building, and there was no disruption in mail service. The postal worker suffered minor injuries.
When asked if the person of interest might be linked to other recent cases involving bombs, FBI spokeswoman Chris Bavender said she couldn't comment on ongoing investigations.
Anyone with information on the person of interest in the sketch is asked to call 800-CALL-FBI or submit a tip at tips.fbi.gov.
Northwest Indiana is losing a beloved local coffee shop that was part of many people's daily routine.
Spill the Beans at 7992 Broadway in Merrillville will soon pour its last pumpkin pie latte.
The coffee shop near U.S. 30 announced it was closing after nine years of caffeinating regulars after a protracted period of road construction on Broadway.
"After almost nine years of serving this community, we are saddened to announce the closing of Spill the Beans," owners Mark and Tammy Anderson posted on Facebook. "We thank each and every one of you for your support and patronage. We will always cherish the friendships and relationships that have been established during our time here."
The coffee shop offered a wide array of coffee drinks, including espresso-based beverages both hot and iced, and frozen blended espresso drinks it called "Spill Chills." It sold Bibles, Christian books, T-shirts, mugs, tea and coffee beans, including Traverse City Cherry and the popular butterscotch- and caramel-flavored Highlander Grog.
Spill the Beans also had a limited food menu that included light fare like breakfast items, soup and sandwiches. It was a gathering spot where Indiana University Northwest and Ivy Tech students hung out and that hosted many public events, including fellowship and writers groups.
Merrillville's Broadway commercial corridor, which was once one of Northwest Indiana's most vibrant commercial hubs, has suffered from a number of closures over the past several years, including The Patio, Piatak Meats, Central Gyros, Wah Yuen Restaurant, a PayLow supermarket and the Merrillville Off-Track Betting.
The coffee shop urged customers to redeem any gift cards there before it closes its doors for good sometime in the next few days.
If interested in buying equipment, call 773-294-3352.
PORTER — A 30-year-old Michigan City woman faces numerous charges after police said they pulled her vehicle over and found a bag of marijuana under the foot of one of five young children inside.
Alaina Long is accused of operating while intoxicated and of possessing the illegal drug, according to a police report.
The Porter police officer said he stopped Long's vehicle shortly after 10 p.m. Friday along U.S. 20 after watching it cross the center line near Leroy's Hot Stuff bar.
The officer said Long did not pull her vehicle off to the side of the road, but rather stopped in the middle of the lane of traffic. The officer said when he approached, he could smell marijuana and Long appeared to be dazed.
When asked where the marijuana was located, Long said one of the children had it, according to police. The officer said the marijuana was under the foot of a 7-year-old boy, who then handed it to Long.
Long reportedly told police she had smoked a "joint" at someone else's home prior to driving.
GRIFFITH — Griffith High School and Griffith Middle School were evacuated Monday morning after school administrators received an emailed bomb threat, officials said.
The threat targeted the high school and middle school campus, according to a news release from Griffith Public Schools.
Beiriger, Ready and Wadsworth elementary schools were placed on lockout as a precaution. During a lockout, no one is allowed in the schools, officials said.
"The email from an alias account was electronically time stamped at 5:26 a.m. CST Monday and sent to High School Principal Brian Orkis and all five members of the School Board," according to the news release.
Griffith police were notified by the district and immediately responded, officials said.
Buses were searched by officers and bomb-sniffing dogs before children were permitted to board them, the release said.
Authorities did not find any explosives during an initial search of the middle and high schools, Superintendent Pete Morikis said in a statement.
“We have suspended the school day for our middle and high school students,” he said. “Elementary students will remain in school.”
Griffith police and local, state and federal agencies, including the FBI and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, continued with an exhaustive search of the school that concluded about noon, police Cmdr. Keith Martin said.
He said several school administrators had received the same e-mail messages stating that explosives had been placed throughout Griffith High School and were set to detonate at a specific time of the school day.
Nothing suspicious was found, he said.
Martin said the Griffith Police Department requested assistance from several other agencies with bomb-detecting dogs.
The situation, including the source of the email, was being investigated, he said.
A message sent to parents of Beiriger Elementary students said all high school and middle school extracurricular activities were canceled for the rest of Monday.
Morikis said schools were expected to reopen as scheduled Tuesday, which will be a late-start day.
The district planned to notify parents via the One-Call system if there are any additional messaging to parents is necessary. Parents also were encouraged to check the district's website, www.griffith.k12.in.us, for updated information.
Monday's bomb threat is the latest in a string of bomb threats and actual bombs discovered in Northwest Indiana, including a pipe bomb that injured a U.S. Postal Service employee Sept. 6 at the East Chicago post office.
A firearms-related threat led to a lockout at Tri-Creek School Corp. schools Sept. 19, and a bomb threat spurred the evacuation of the Highland Target store Sept. 16.*
Eric Weiler, 44, of LaPorte, was charged last week after two bombs at his home Sept. 20, according to court records.
Katrina Franzen, 32, of Valparaiso, was arrested Sept. 9 after a Porter County sheriff's deputy found an active pipe bomb in her car, court records show. Franzen allegedly told police her ex-boyfriend left the bomb in her home after leaving the area.
CROWN POINT — A 28-year-old woman charged in the murder two years ago of teenage brothers Arreon and Antonio Lackey pleaded guilty Tuesday to two counts of felony kidnapping.
Michelle Hughes entered the plea Tuesday before Judge Diane Boswell. The state agreed to dismiss murder charges as part of the agreement, but Hughes will face a minimum of five years in prison for the kidnapping offenses, which are typically punishable by three to 16 years in prison for each offense.
The plea agreement allowed Hughes to avoid the fate of two co-defendants — David Johnson IV and Jeri Woods — who were convicted at separate trials earlier this year and sentenced to a total of 315 years in prison.
The other co-defendants are David Johnson III, 64; David Johnson V, 21; Aarion Greenwood, 19; and Kiontay Cason, 23.
The co-defendants are accused of kidnapping the brothers June 26, 2015, from a hotel in Merrillville in an effort to recover a stolen .38 caliber revolver.
When efforts to find the gun failed, the brothers were allegedly forced to walk at gunpoint into a remote area in Hobart, where they were shot execution-style by Woods.
Hughes drove one of the two vehicles used to kidnap the brothers and transport them to Hobart, according to court records.
Cason and David Johnson V both pleaded guilty last fall to two counts of kidnapping in exchange for their testimony at trial against the other co-defendants.
HAMMOND — The Morton Governors football team proudly walked out onto Maury Zlotnik Field behind the flag of the United States last Friday.
A couple miles away, the Hammond Wildcats stood together while the national anthem was played at West Side. Like the 'Cats have done for decades, when the closing words were sang, "O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave," they collectively raised their helmets. Together, as one.
This also occurred last Friday night.
On the same night in Huntsville, Alabama, President Donald Trump gave a speech at a rally where he said, "Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, 'Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out. He’s fired. He’s fired.' "
Trump strongly chastised pro football players who kneel Sundays while the national anthem is played.
Hammond football coach Roosevelt Moore asked after Tuesday's practice when the last time a U.S. president called fellow citizens such a derogatory name in a public setting.
Morton senior linebacker and tight end Joseph Wharton put his perspective on the heated debate in sharp terms.
"It's cool for people to stand up for what they believe in," Wharton said. "It's not about the flag. It's not about the anthem. It's not about the military. It's about what Trump said."
This debate began a year ago when 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick started kneeling during the anthem to protest perceived police brutality in minority neighborhoods.
West Side football coach Jason Johnson played three seasons in the NFL with the Denver Broncos, Pittsburgh Steelers and New Orleans Saints, along with playing for the Frankfurt Galaxy of the World League of American Football.
He said last season after Kaepernick's demonstration began, several of his players decided to do a similar protest. They asked Johnson, who asked his administration, which told Johnson they would prefer this not happen at the high school level.
So it didn't.
Johnson said he believes there are two Americas. He understands many whites do not understand why many blacks hold this issue closely to their hearts. The same symbols have different meanings in different communities of color.
The Cougars coach believes this is the core of the current controversy.
"The same flag that many whites respect was up in the air during slavery," Johnson said. "The household I was raised in was not the household you were raised in. Millions of African-Americans don't value those kind of things, because that institution was part of the assassination of our people."
What it's about
Johnson believes this protest is different than the one Kaepernick started. He said this one isn't about police attacking black people, but about Trump attacking the NFL.
Being a former player, he said he understands what Steelers lineman Alejandro Villanueva did at Soldier Field on Sunday. The Army vet stood by himself with his hand over his heart during the anthem and became a hero to many opposed to the protests.
On Monday, Villanueva's jersey shot to No. 1 among NFL players' uniforms being sold. While many fans burned their NFL jerseys out of anger against the perceived disrespect for the flag and the anthem.
Villanueva later said he threw his teammates under the bus by standing for the anthem. But Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said he had a sleepless night after Sunday's actions, showing how divisive this issue is.
"Villanueva fought for this country, for this flag and he did what he felt he had to do," Johnson said. "None of us know what his experience has been like. And if you're not man enough to understand what he did and why he did it, I don't know. I hope what we all learn from this is we all need to learn to empathize with other people."
Morton football coach Sean Kinsey comes from a mixed-race family: his mother is white and his father is black. He grew up in Merrillville, residing 10 minutes from his mom's parents.
"They would not meet with me until I was 23 years old," Kinsey said. "So don't tell me racism doesn't exist in America anymore."
Not a distraction
Kinsey said he had no problem with the NFL protests over the weekend. He said 99 percent of pro players are good guys and that the media jumps on the negative stories to put the league in a negative light.
He said it is very possible to love this country at the same time, while trying to bring positive changes to neighborhoods overlooked or people left out of the loop.
"For me, personally, I wasn't distracted by it," Kinsey said. "Those guys should be able to do what they feel they need to do. Remember, those are good men taking a knee. They just might have a different point of view than you do.
"It's an honor for people to say not everything is all right in this country. Once we realize that we can start to make changes to make it better."
Kinsey is proud that his team ran out holding the American flag up high last Friday night.
He also said he would support any of his players who chose to take a knee during the anthem.
"It felt real good running out with the flag last Friday night," Morton senior Jordan Mielenz said. "It brings us all together. We are brothers."
On Friday night, Morton will travel to Hammond for a big game in the Great Lakes Athletic Conference. The Governors will run out holding up the flag. And the Wildcats will raise their helmets together at the end of the national anthem.
Yet, many of the players on both teams support what the NFL players are doing.
"I understand where they're coming from," Hammond senior Isaiah Smith said. "The system favors white people. Or, it doesn't favor black people or Mexicans."
Smith said he absolutely supports the military, pointing out that a lot of minority men and women make up America's armed forces.
"(The NFL players) are fighting back at what the President said," Smith said. "I don't think he should've said that."
Wildcats seniors Jaron Price and Senor Lindsey agreed with what the NFL players did this past weekend, but the two also spoke about a hope that America's fractured culture can somehow come together.
In some way.
"Those guys really care about what's going on," Price said. "Like when our team raises our helmets up, we do it together."
"You can't win with only two or three guys," Lindsey added.
Coach Moore doesn't like to see combative politics engaging in athletics.
"A lot of people are making it about the flag, but that's not the issue, it's not about that," said Moore, agreeing it is a response to Trump's words. "I hope we all can come together. We all have to find some solidarity through this. I think it's good the conversation about these issues is going on.
"But we all live in the United States of America. So we have to stay united as one people."
A new Amish doughnut shop opened in Valparaiso, and plans to add locations in Schererville and Munster over the next few years.
Rise'n Roll Bakery is at 1320 Lincolnway near the Valparaiso University campus. Just the fifth franchise in a Middlebury, Indiana-based chain, the shop features doughnuts, apple fritters, pies, other baked goods and Amish sundries like butter, apple butter, cheeses, noodles and jarred foodstuffs.
Though grounded in traditional Amish baking techniques, Rise'n Roll has a more modern flair, such as with a soft-serve ice cream-filled doughnut and a cinnamon-caramel doughnut topping that's nicknamed "Amish crack," franchisee Cory Good said.
Cory and Penny Good opened the 2,000-square-foot doughnut shop, which already employs about a dozen workers and expects to ramp up more because of demand. Carryout should account for about 75 percent of the business, but Rise'n Roll still has 25 seats for dining in.
"The biggest difference is there aren't any preservatives," he said. "Amish doughnuts use only fresh ingredients, and are baked fresh every day. But since there are no preservatives, they don't last long. They're timely."
The doughnuts are baked at a central processing facility in Middlebury in northeast Indiana and shipped across the state first thing in the morning.
"They also have homemade butter, which has a higher fat content," Cory Good said. "They kind of melt in your mouth. There are heavy cake doughnuts and light doughnuts like Krispy Kreme but this is somewhere in the middle. They're consistently light but they're delicious."
Rise'n Roll offers a doughnut that's injected with ice cream through a pressurized straw, as well as fritters, Bismarcks, cream-filled, frosted, powdered and glazed doughnuts. It also serves up sweets like Dutch apple pies, cream pies, cookies, cinnamon rolls, sticky buns and muffins.
"We anticipate being a destination, bringing in people from all over the area that are familiar with it," Cory Good said. "People are drawn to Amish goods because of the quality. They don't make things like they used to. With preservatives, it loses some of the taste. People like the Amish branding because it means it's well-made, it's good, that quality is the number one thing."
Rise'n Roll Bakery will be open from 6:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Wednesday, and from 6:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday through Saturday.
The Goods plan to open two more franchises, likely in Munster and Schererville, over the next two years. They're looking to move into existing space, possibly with a drive-through.
For more information, visit risenroll.com or call (219) 242-8160.
CROWN POINT — Jerome Flewelling has been a role model for his students at Crown Point High School.
Now the physics teacher will be a role model for all the teachers in the state as Flewelling was named the 2018 Teacher of the Year by the Indiana Department of Education.
The award was announced at the high school Thursday to a surprised Flewelling, who was greeted by family, friends and colleagues waiting for him with state education officials in a room near the school's cafeteria.
Also there were his students, who Flewelling said inspire him to do more, be more and live more in and out of the classroom.
"It's because of you that I'm here," Flewelling said. "You motivate me to be creative and courageous every day in the classroom, and your passion is contagious."
Flewelling, or "Mr. Flew" as his students call him, said he's a reflection of his family, the school and the community.
"I hope that I reflect you well," he said.
Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Jennifer McCormick told Flewelling's students they are blessed to have the state's best teacher at their high school.
"Jerome's career has been nothing short of diligently preparing his students for life beyond high school," she said. "I am honored to present this award to him. I know he will continue to represent his profession and our fellow teachers as well."
The 2017 Teacher of the Year, Jitka Nelson, of Logansport, said she sat in Flewelling's classroom and witnessed a commitment to learning and how his students' eyes would light up when she asked about their teacher.
"Students believe in you," she told Flewelling.
Crown Point High School senior Nick Ryan does believe. He said Flewelling connected with him and made him realize how much he loves physics.
"He's the kind of teacher who will go out of his way to make you know what you are doing and when you are doing it," Ryan said. "He will help you any way he can. He answers emails late at night even when you are trying to do homework. He will go the extra mile for anyone he can."
Crown Point High School Principal Chip Pettit said Flewelling has been a wonderful role model for teachers in the school and for the community for some time.
"We are all very pleased he'll now have the opportunity to serve the state of Indiana and the teachers in the state of Indiana as a role model," he said.
Crown Point schools Superintendent Teresa Eineman said during his tenure as Teacher of the Year, Flewelling will represent the school corporation and share first and foremost his love of students.
"He will be forever changed knowing all our teachers touch lives," she said.
Flewelling is a graduate of Taylor University with a bachelor's degree in science, physics and education. He has served in education for more than 20 years, first at Frankton Junior/Senior High School as a physics and astronomy teacher.
According to the IDOE website, the last Teacher of the Year recipient from Northwest Indiana was Katherine Stahl, of Hammond's Maywood Elementary School, in 1995.
As the 2018 Teacher of the Year, Flewelling will represent Indiana in the National Teacher of the Year competition.
GARY — Yellow crime scene tape cordoned off parts of the city's Tarrytown neighborhood Thursday where a 33-year-old Gary man exchanged gunfire with police and injured two officers and a civilian before turning a gun on himself, police said.
Ned Brooks, of Gary, was identified Thursday afternoon by Indiana State Police as the suspect involved in the shootout with police following a controlled drug buy.
Police could be seen Thursday canvassing the area near 22nd Plaza and Willard Street, where the controlled drug buy took place.
Emotions were high near a second crime scene at 22ndPlace and Morton Street as Brooks' family members arrived on scene.
About 30 people, including young children, stood outside the taped-off area, able to see the Lake County coroner’s van parked outside the home where Brooks’ body was found.
“Is he dead? That’s my brother. Is he dead?” one young woman asked police, pointing to a damaged white vehicle, its passenger door ajar. Another woman dropped to her knees and sobbed on the sidewalk as others comforted her.
A shirtless man could be seen pacing back and forth in the streets, screaming, at times, at officers to tell him what happened.
“What happened? Talk to me. Tell me something!” the man yelled as people tried to comfort him.
State police appeared calm, explaining they could not cross the crime scene tape.
Shortly after pulling a stretcher from the back of the van, coroner's officials backed the vehicle into the driveway to take Brooks' body away. The van cleared the scene at about 5 p.m.
How it unfolded
Shortly before 1:50 p.m., officers with a federal multiagency task force under the Drug Enforcement Administration conducted a controlled narcotics buy near 22nd Plaza and Willard Street in Gary, according to a news release from Indiana State Police.
After stopping Brooks’ vehicle during the buy, he allegedly rammed his vehicle into several unmarked police cars in an attempt to elude officers, state police said.
His vehicle struck a civilian and an officer, injuring both, police said.
A second officer, who was seated in an unmarked police car, was also injured when the police car was struck.
Brooks began shooting at officers as he fled, prompting officers to return fire, state police said.
“(Brooks) then abandoned his vehicle on 22nd Place and fled on foot,” the release stated. He continued to shoot at officers, police said.
As the pursuit continued, officers converged in the area and located a dead Brooks in the backyard of a house in the 4200 block of West 22nd Place, with several weapons found near his body and in his vehicle.
While officers shot Brooks as he fled the scene, a preliminary investigation indicates Brooks suffered a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head, state police said.
The Lake County coroner’s office in a news release said Brooks’ manner of death is pending, but that he died from “multiple gunshot wounds.”
The cause and manner of death will be determined at an autopsy scheduled for Saturday, state police said.
Both officers suffered injuries that were not life threatening, but were transported for treatment, police said.
The civilian, an adult male from Gary, was transported to Methodist Hospitals Northlake Campus in Gary and later airlifted to Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, Illinois, state police said at the scene.
One woman who lives in the 4200 block of West 22nd Place said she was baby-sitting her three grandchildren when she heard a “loud boom” outside her home.
“I was like 'What was that?' and then I thought 'OK, that was a gunshot,'” so I jumped off the couch, snatched (a grandson) up and hit the floor,” Shuntell Washington, of Gary, said.
When she went outside, she said she saw a white vehicle, later identified as Brooks' car, had driven partially into her front yard, a few feet from a child's inflatable swimming pool. The front windshield and driver’s side windows were shattered. No one was inside.
Officers involved in the incident are with the Indiana State Police, Drug Enforcement Administration and the Porter County Sheriff's Department.
Pour House will bring the trendy self-serve craft beer bar concept to downtown Valparaiso when it opens at 4 p.m. Oct. 5.
Visitors to the new bar in the old Good to Go by Lucrezia space, 54 W. Lincolnway, will be able to pour their own beer from 24 different self-serve taps and pay by the ounce, similar to Brewfest in Highland, owner Kevin Eckley said. Pour House will offer an array of local, regional, nationally and international craft beers, as well as ciders, canned wines and domestic beers.
Initially, it will have brews by Three Floyds, 18th Street, Greenbush, St. John Malt Brothers, Evil Czech, Bell's and Rhinegeist from Cincinnati. Beers will be tapped in smaller barrels to ensure they rotate out frequently so it's always fresh and there's a lot of variety, Kevin Eckley said.
"We're trying to do local, and support local businesses and breweries," he said. "But we'll also have Coors, Miller Lite and Yuengling to appeal to everyone."
Pour House will employ about a half dozen workers and will seat around 40, with five to seven outdoor patio tables to be added on the Lincolnway sidewalk next year. It will have TVs, music, board games and a shuffleboard table in a vintage rustic space with Edison lights, corrugated walls, exposed bricks and "old school vibes."
"It's going to be laid-back," Eckley said. "We see it as a place for people to go before or after dinner, on their way to the Opera House or for a meeting downtown after work. It's a place to sit down with friends and try things that are different."
Since customers pay for beer by the ounce, they could just get small samples to see if they like beers they're unfamiliar with. It will rotate all types of beers and feature a lot of India Pale Ales, as well as stouts, amber ales and porters.
"We plans to do seasonal stuff like Oktoberfest-type beers and gingerbread and spiced beers around Christmas type," he said. "In the spring it will be more fruity. We hope to keep it weird but not too weird."
Pour House also will offer frozen pizza, but is generally BYOF, or Bring Your Own Food. It will let customers bring in pizza or other food from nearby restaurants.
"Downtown Valpo has a lot of foot traffic and it's growing," he said. "It's set up to be a destination with the pavilion and the festivals. We're near Elements (wine bar) and Aftermath (cidery and winery), and that area is hot right now."
Eckley wanted to bring the self-serve concept to Valpo first because it's been spreading so fast around the country.
"It's definitely something that's taking off," he said. "It's easier. You don't have to wait on somebody to serve you. You have the freedom to choose what you want, and how much you want without waiting to be served."
Eckley is focused on making the downtown bar successful, but said he might eventually expand the concept to other locations in Indiana.
Pour House will be open from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, from 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. Friday, from 2 p.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday and from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday. It will be closed Mondays.
More than 12 percent of Lake County residents commute to work in Illinois, mostly to Chicago, where higher wages and better opportunities await in the forest of glistening skyscrapers by the lake.
Recently released data from Stats Indiana, based on Indiana IT-40 returns for tax year 2015, found 35,752 Lake County residents go to neighboring Illinois for work. Better pay is a major draw: the average wage in the Chicago-Naperville-Arlington Heights Metropolitan Division was $26.12 per hour last year, as compared to $20.54 in the Gary Metropolitan Division, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Highland resident Kimberly Kosmas has been commuting into Chicago for work since she started her career in 1983, taking the South Shore Line to her job as a project manager for a utility company.
"It was terribly difficult, but I learned to leave at 5:45 a.m. to make a train that would always run late," she said of riding the commuter train in the 1980s. "Back in those days, they were just retiring the old cars for the Japanese ones. They seemed to struggle then."
In 1997, she found a job in Hammond that was much closer but only paid a fraction of what she earned in the city.
"The commute was far less, but still didn't offset my loss of income," she said. "I took the opportunity to earn my bachelor's degree and left the company to earn $10K more in Chicago. I noticed the train was much better, including their on-time record."
Best of both worlds
Ashley Velchek, a business development associate for a nonprofit youth service agency, and her boyfriend, a building maintenance coordinator for a dental instrument manufacturing company, just bought a house in Dyer after living in Chicago for years.
"Generally speaking, splitting our time between Chicago and NWI is like having the best of both worlds," she said.
"Despite a much longer commute to the city, we chose to live in NWI for the affordability of a single-family home and lifestyle. I, personally, do not want to give up the city life completely, including friends, restaurants and culture."
They like their jobs, presume salaries are higher in the city and believe there are a larger array of job prospects there, Velchek said.
"I believe that my opinion may change once we start a family, and would prefer to be at home more rather than deal with the long commute," she said. "Also, once we have children, schools are ranked higher in NWI than in Chicago. I would recommend it for those who are ready to settle down a bit and for the 'better bang for your buck' argument."
Stats Indiana found most of Lake County's 293,762 workers either stay in Lake County or commute across the state line to Illinois. About 6,550 Lake County residents work in neighboring Porter County, while 946 schlep to LaPorte County and 360 endure a more-than-two-hour-each-way drive down to Indianapolis.
Lake County, the second most populous county in the state after Marion County, also remains by far the biggest employment hub in Northwest Indiana, according to Stats Indiana. It attracts 18,981 workers from Porter County, 15,358 from Illinois, 2,388 from Jasper County and 1,762 from LaPorte County. LaPorte County, in turn, sends 3,768 workers west to Porter County, 2,195 workers east to St. Joseph County and about 749 workers north to Michigan.
South Shore stations a selling point
Though Lake County remains the Region's employment center, it's also increasingly becoming a bedroom community, as young Chicagoans decamp to the suburbs and south suburban residents cross the state line, looking for somewhere that's still a reasonable commute into Chicago.
Flossmoor native Noah Amstadter, an editor at a book publisher, said when he took a job in Chicago in 2010, living in Illinois was not a consideration for him and his wife Jen, a Hobart native.
"The housing costs, limited square footage and parking costs associated with living in the city did not interest us," he said.
"And living in the suburbs on the Illinois side was not attractive, either — if you drive around Schererville you see a community that's growing, that new businesses are investing in. On the other side of the border where I grew up in Flossmoor, we saw a community fighting to survive, with foreclosures and taxes going up and businesses closing down."
While he liked the idea of walking to the Metra, he said it wasn't worth the risk of taking on a mortgage in an at-risk community.
"We focused our home search on west Lake County, specifically homes no more than a 20-minute drive from a South Shore station," he said. "Ultimately, we purchased a home in Schererville's Plum Creek subdivision."
He leaves the house at 7:15 a.m. every morning and typically walks into his office in Chicago's River North neighborhood at about 8:45 a.m.
"The train schedule is reliable. Other than extreme weather, the South Shore has proven reliable over the past six-plus years," Amstadter said. "I can get work done, listen to a podcast, read, or even sleep on the train. None of the stress of driving, on my car or on me. Since the South Shore added WiFi, it's been even better."
He appreciates not having to pay for parking at the train station, like Metra requires its riders to do. But he said he's been slowed down by freight trains and major construction projects, such as the replacement of the Nine Span Bridge on Indianapolis Boulevard. It's also currently not convenient for him to walk or bike to a South Shore Line station.
"Unlike suburban communities serviced by Metra, relatively few South Shore commuters walk to the station," he said. "I miss that option."
Porter County commutes, too
A fourth of Porter County's 113,348 workers leave the county for work, mainly to Lake County and Illinois. Nearly 5,000 Porter County residents commute to Illinois for work, while only about 1,000 Illinois residents work in Porter County. Some 3,768 LaPorte County residents work in Porter County, according to Stats Indiana.
Chesterton resident Lauren Rossi works downtown, just across the river from the Tribune Tower on Michigan Avenue.
"I work in radio, so the job market is extremely limited for me in Northwest Indiana," she said. "I am the sole provider for my family as my husband is a stay-at-home dad, so I need to work where I can make enough for us."
She bought a house close to a South Shore Line station so she could easily get into the city. Their family decided to move from California back to the Region after they had their daughter, so they would be close to the grandparents.
"When we were looking for a home to purchase, the three biggest factors were safety of the neighborhood, quality of schools and proximity to the South Shore Line. We decided on Chesterton because it fit all of those factors, and we were able to get a home for a very reasonable price with low property taxes," Rossi said.
"We stayed with his parents in Munster during our home search, and I took the South Shore out of East Chicago daily. Even with moving more than 20 miles further east, my total commute only changed by about 10 minutes."
Rossi said she enjoys taking the South Shore Line into the city, even if there are delays or breakdowns.
"My employer completely understands the hassles of the train and has no problem if I am late due to the train," she said. "I just need to make up my hours sometime during the week. In the evening, I get into a book or catch up on my television shows or movies on Netflix. It has become my time to decompress."
Commute is reasonable
Chad True and his wife, who moved from the northern suburbs to Chesterton in 2014, drive into the city together on the Indiana Toll Road, and he takes the train home because of their schedules. He works in insurance in the Loop and his wife works at the University of Chicago in Hyde Park.
"We could have located anywhere on Interstate 294 and it would be an hour," he said. "We visit Michigan a lot, so we checked Chesterton out. The day care was affordable, and the commute isn't unreasonable."
True said he enjoys the affordability, low taxes, small-town feel and proximity to the Indiana Dunes State Park, so much that he's actively proselytizing for Northwest Indiana.
"One of the new executives at work came up from Atlanta, and I've interested him in looking at Chesterton and Valparaiso," he said. "We're recruiting."
Northwest Indiana leaders have been working to position the Region as more of a suburb of Chicago, given that wages are significantly higher there and that NWI's core base of manufacturing jobs has been eroding for decades. The South Shore Line double-track and expansion projects specifically are intended to attract more young families who would work in the Loop and live in Northwest Indiana.
Reduced travel time
Ned Jovanovich, who moved to Munster from Chicago's Lakeview neighborhood three years ago, said he believes there are too many empty seats on the train and ridership is declining too much for the expansion to work without exorbitant government subsidies. Jovanovich, who works in sales and marketing, takes the train into work three days a week, and said it's antiquated and could be faster.
He and his wife moved to Munster to start a family, and he was eager to escape Chicago's high taxes and housing costs.
"We pay 60 percent less in property taxes," he said. "We picked Munster because of the schools. It's comparable to Hinsdale, Lake Forest, any of the other Chicago suburbs."
Other riders were more excited by the train line's expansion southward and the double-tracking projects, which is expected to speed up service east of Gary because trains won't have to stop to let each other pass.
Amstadter said it would be convenient to have new stations in Munster and Dyer, which would be a 10-minute bike ride or five-minute drive from his house. Rossi said double-tracking should cut down on the travel time back home to Chesterton.
"With a 2-year-old at home, I treasure every moment I get with her," Rossi said, "so a reduction in travel time is something I truly look forward to."