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Defendant convicted of murdering man, attempting to murder cop in nightclub shootout
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Defendant convicted of murdering man, attempting to murder cop in nightclub shootout

CROWN POINT — A Lake Criminal Court jury found a Hammond man guilty of murdering a man outside a Gary nightclub last fall and attempting to murder a police officer.

Fredrick Craft Jr., 31, stood trial last week on charges linked to the shootout Sept. 27 outside the Loft nightclub in the 700 block of Broadway.

Kevin Blackmon, 28, of Gary, was killed in the shooting.

Craft, who was wearing a bullet-proof vest, was shot by Gary police Officer Martin Garza after Craft refused to comply with the officer's orders to drop a gun.

Ride along with LaPorte Police Specialist Justin Dyer as he patrols the streets of LaPorte.

Lake County Deputy Prosecutors Jessica Arnold and Maureen Koonce agreed with Craft and his attorney, Mark Gruenhagen, to schedule a bench trial later this month before Judge Diane Boswell on a firearm enhancement, a spokesman for the prosecutor's office said.

If convicted of the enhancement, Craft could face an additional five to 20 years. That sentence would run consecutively to his sentences on the murder and attempted murder counts, which carry possible penalties of 45 to 65 years and 20 to 40 years, respectively.

Craft's sentencing will be scheduled sometime after his bench trial on the firearm enhancement, the prosecutor's office said.

Arnold told jurors Craft and his friends went to the nightclub with multiple guns and "enough ammunition to wage war in the parking lot that night."

Craft's attorney, Mark Gruenhagen, told jurors Craft didn't have a gun on him when he collapsed on the ground and asked Gary police Officer Tyler Knotts — who witnessed the shooting from a different angle — for help.

Prosecutors told jurors Craft likely handed off a gun to someone else when he briefly disappeared behind a vehicle before collapsing.

Garza testified he saw Craft firing a gun into a crowd as Blackmon fell to the ground, ordered Craft to drop the weapon, and returned fire when Craft began shooting at him.

Lake County sheriff's Capt. Henry Hatch testified he examined 85 spent shell casings found at the crime scene and determined they had been fired from a double-drum Glock handgun.

That particular gun was found locked in a vehicle linked to Craft, Arnold said.

Hatch also testified he examined a bullet fragment recovered from Blackmon's body and could not exclude it as being fired by the double-drum Glock. Hatch was able to determine the bullet was not fired by any of the other six guns he examined in the case, he said.

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