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Gary homicides accelerate 16 percent, year over year


GARY — The dead include a father of three, who had just welcomed a newborn daughter.

A grandmother so dedicated to her church, she sang in the choir for decades.

A mother of five, petite but full of heart, killed in a shooting that also wounded her 8-year-old daughter. 

Gary has recorded 29 homicides as of Wednesday, an increase of 16 percent from the 25 logged at the same time last year, police said. In all of 2017, the city saw 48 homicides.

Gary cases account for nearly 66 percent of all homicides in Lake County, which has seen a total of 44 homicides so far this year.

All but two of this year's homicide victims in Gary died from gunshot wounds. Charges have been filed in eight cases, Lt. Thomas Pawlak said.

The city also leads the county in shootings, though numbers are down from this time last year. 

Gary had logged 66 shootings as of Wednesday, compared with 93 at the same time in 2017.

Edward Norwood, 56

Gary police found Norwood's nude body Jan. 1 in his bedroom in the 3600 block of Johnson Street. He had been stabbed multiple times and his throat was slashed, according to court records.

James M. Jackson-Burnett, of Gary, was charged in February with murder. Police began investigating Jackson-Burnett after receiving a tip that Jackson-Burnett had been bragging about the homicide, court records state.

Jackson-Burnett admitted to police he and Norwood were sexual partners, but said the relationship soured after he broke into Norwood's home Dec. 26, according to a probable cause affidavit.

Terrence Conley, 55

Conley, of Gary, was found fatally shot in the face in a vehicle parked Jan. 4 at 800 S. Lake St., near the South Shore Line station in Gary. The investigation remains open, police said. Conley's family is offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction in the case, police said.

Louis Watson, 25

Watson, of Gary, died on a couch with an Xbox game controller in his hand Jan. 5 after he was shot inside a home in the 2100 block of Harrison Street in Gary, according to court records.

Montel R. Brooks, of Gary, was charged in January with murder. A witness told police Brooks had been smoking marijuana laced with embalming fluid the night of the homicide, which "makes him crazy."

Brooks, Watson and the witness were together in the home, which was leased by Brooks, drinking vodka before the shooting, court records say.

Danny Raye Leake, 44

Leake, of Gary and Tennessee, was found unresponsive in a pool of blood about 1:33 a.m. Jan. 25 in the 1400 block of East 49th Avenue in Gary. A cellphone, keys and several shell casings were found about 15 feet from his body.

Michael Brown and Hillard Hathaway, both of Merrillville, were each charged in February with murder. Hathaway was also charged with attempted murder in the shooting.

A witness told police he and Leake were towing a vehicle the night of Jan. 25 when they noticed a burgundy SUV and a black pickup truck were parked outside the empty lot.

The witness and Leake spoke with “Mike” and “Hilton,” who said they were there removing batteries from vehicles. The men were not supposed to be on the property and left the lot with several batteries, court records say.

The men returned to the yard armed with handguns and Brown fired two shots at the witness, who was able to hide behind a disabled vehicle. Brown and Hathaway then shot Leake, according to a probable cause affidavit.

Joseph Hegwood, 56

Hegwood, of Gary, died from gunshot wounds Feb. 9 in the 300 block of Van Buren Avenue in Gary. Police found him lying in the middle of an intersection during a snowstorm. The case remains under investigation.

James D. Franklin, 57

Police found Franklin, of Gary, lying in the middle of the street, struggling to breath with a pool of blood surrounding his lower body Feb. 15 in the 4200 block of Kentucky Street in Gary. A shot to his right thigh severed his femoral artery, court records say.

Police said Jason Ryan Burgess, of Gary, shot Franklin after the mother of his children — who was dating Franklin — falsely accused Franklin of physically harming her.

Burgess was charged in February with murder and faces an enhancement because a gun was used to carry out the killing.

The woman told police she and Franklin argued, and she decided to call Burgess. She knew from past experiences that calling Burgess likely would lead to Burgess pulling a gun on Franklin or assaulting him, court records state. 

The woman said she saw Franklin and his son walking down the street and Burgess at a nearby corner stop sign "holding a shiny object, what she believed to be a gun, in the air," court records state. 

Franklin's son told police he was walking with Franklin that night when they were approached by a man on a bike, whom he recognized as "my dad's girlfriend's baby daddy."

John Price, 27

Price, of Gary, died in a shooting Feb. 18 near his home in the 700 block of Ohio Street. The case remains under investigation.

Van Dyke Cason, 29; and Freddie Howard, 44

Cason, of Gary, and his girlfriend Freddie Howard, 44, of Gary, were found shot to death Feb. 25 inside their apartment in the 2000 block of Carolina Street in Gary. Police were called to the scene for a report of shots fired and a man with a gun. Police have a person of interest, but the case remains under investigation.

Devin Coleman Jr., 20

Coleman, of the 600 block of Tennessee Street in Gary, was fatally shot March 3 in his car in the 600 block of Maryland Street. The case remains under investigation.

Broderick Harbin, 30

Police found Harbin, of Gary, slumped over a kitchen table after a shooting March 11 in a home in the 2100 block of Carolina Street in Gary. 

Ronald E. Menzie, of Minneapolis, Minnesota, was charged May 14 with murder and two counts of felony battery.

A woman told police she and Harbin got into an argument during the early morning hours March 11 after a party attended by her friends and their children. Her son's cousin, “Ronald,” showed up about 1 a.m. for the party and was present during the argument.

She told police the fight grew heated and Harbin slapped her. She then heard several gunshots, which sounded like firecrackers.

The woman was shot in the left hand, and Harbin was shot in the head. Eight children were asleep in an upstairs bedroom and two more children, including the woman's son, were in the basement.

Menzie fled the home after the shooting. Police were able to identify him as the assailant with help from the woman's son, court records state.

Jack Daniel, 19

Daniel, of Hebron, was found shot to death March 11 in a van in the 5100 block of Georgia Street. Police responded to the area for a report of shots fired. The case remains open.

Russell Chase, 28

Police found Chase, of Gary, lying on a curb March 30 after responding to a report of a man down in the 1200 block of West 16th Avenue in Gary. Chase died from a gunshot wound at the scene. The case remains open. 

Isaiah Carter, 25

Carter, of the 700 block of Mississippi Street in Gary, was found shot to death March 31 near East Eighth Avenue and Virginia Street in Gary. Police were dispatched for a report of shots fired and a vehicle in a field. Carter was found inside a vehicle in a vacant lot and pronounced dead at the scene, police said. The case remains under investigation. 

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Derek S. Franklin, 58

Franklin, of Gary, died April 4 after he was shot while driving in the 6500 block of West Fifth Avenue and crashed in the 400 block of Hobart Street, officials said.

Officers were dispatched to the area and found Franklin inside a wrecked vehicle, which was smoking. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

He is not related to James D. Franklin, who was killed Feb. 15, police said. The case remains under investigation.

Damir Young-Hunt, 18

Young-Hunt, of Gary, was found shot to death April 15 behind a home in the 4600 block of Van Buren Street. Police were flagged down about a gunshot victim after responding to the area for a report of shots fired. The case remains open.

Pamela Hunter, 28

Hunter, of Gary, was killed and her 8-year-old daughter wounded in a shooting early April 17 at her home in the 1400 block of East 35th Place in Gary.

Hunter's defense attorney, Jamise Perkins, said after the shooting she believed Hunter was murdered because she was a witness in the case against Marcellus D. Robinson. Robinson's attorney, Scott King, said there were many people who could be responsible for Hunter's killing.

Robinson, 23, is charged with fatally shooting a woman in November 2015. His trial is set to begin Oct. 22.

Perkins said Hunter, a mother of five, was a petite woman with a big heart. Her homicide remains under investigation.

Markis D. Square, 30

Square, of Gary, was shot to death April 18 at Ocampo Auto Sales, 401 W. Ridge Road. Esteban Ocampo was charged April 21 in the murder of his former business partner. 

Square's family strongly disputed initial reports that Square tried to rob Ocampo, saying he was a hard worker who took care of his family. He was the father of a newborn daughter and two sons.

A witness told police Ocampo chased Square from his business's garage, shooting at him with a revolver. The witness, a friend of Square, said he briefly lost sight of the men, but Ocampo returned and tried ordering him into the garage at gunpoint.

The friend refused and managed to wrestle Ocampo's gun away from him, but returned it before fleeing the scene in his vehicle. He told police he feared being arrested on a warrant.

Ocampo's wife initially reported Square was shot by a customer while attempting to rob her, but admitted that story was phony after officers confronted her with inconsistencies in her statement.

Raymon Truitt II, 28

Truitt was shot and killed June 7 in a shootout with federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agents in the 500 block of Kentucky Street in Gary.

Blake King, of Chicago, and Bernard Graham, of Calumet City, were charged June 8 in U.S. District Court in Hammond. Leondre Smith, of Homewood, was charged June 8 in Lake Criminal Court with felony attempted unlawful transfer of a handgun.

A confidential informant and two undercover ATF agents met with Truitt, 28, and two of his associates at 554 Kentucky St. in Gary to purchase guns from Truitt in a deal arranged by Smith, court records state.

Instead, Truitt and his associates – Graham and King – ambushed the buyers, shooting one of the agents in the chest and arm, records state. Truitt was subsequently killed by the agents in the shootout.

Lashaun A. Virgin, 36

Virgin, who had addresses in Gary and Merrillville, was shot in the chest June 13 and died at East 10th Avenue and New Hampshire in Gary’s Aetna section. Police found him lying in the road after responding to a report of a woman screaming for help and a gunshot victim. The case remains under investigation.

Davita Ward, 39

Ward was found dead in her burned-out car June 17 in the 2400 block of Noble Street. She died from a gunshot wound to the head, according to the Lake County coroner's office.

Ward's father reported her missing that morning, telling police he last saw her the night of June 16.

Ward's body was discovered after a passer-by called police to report her car, which had been involved in an overnight fire, was suspicious. The coroner's office positively identified her Saturday. The case remains under investigation. 

Derricko Rogers, 21

Rogers, of Gary, was killed and a 27-year-old Merrillville man was wounded in a shooting June 21 at 238 E. Ridge Road. Police found the 27-year-old outside. He told officers another victim was still inside. The case remains under investigation. 

Jazaniel Davis, 19

Davis, of Merrillville, was killed and three others were wounded in a shooting June 24 in the 2500 block of Harrison Street. The homicide capped a particularly violent weekend in Gary in which 15 people were wounded by gunfire. Davis was the only person who died. The case remains under investigation. 

Barbara Booth Walker, 79

Walker, of Gary, died in a fire her grandson is accused of setting at her home June 28 in the 3400 block of Johnson Street.

The grandson, Kyle A. Gray, 25, of Gary, was charged June 29 with murder.

Booth Walker attended Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church, where she sang in the choir for many years, said Victoria Emery, the pastor's daughter.

Booth Walker was a wonderful person, she said. "She kept you laughing."

Jessie Brown, 29

Brown, of Gary, was killed and three others were wounded July 4 in a shooting in the 3400 block of Pierce Street. The victims were found inside a home, police said. The investigation is ongoing.

Heather Talley, 27; Darius Ross, 28; and Nicholas Edwards, 28

Talley, of Hammond; her fiance, Darius Ross, 28, of Gary; and their friend Nicholas Edwards, 28, of Gary, went out July 14 to celebrate Ross' birthday, Talley's family said.

They never returned. Talley was found shot to death July 15 in the 2500 block of Central Avenue, near the Lake Station border.

Ross and Edward were found shot to death inside a vehicle in the area of West Ninth Avenue and Harrison Street, police said.

The case remains under investigation.

Antonio Adams, 23

Adams, of Gary's West Side, was found shot to death July 17 in an alley in the 700 block of Georgia Street.

He had been missing since July 14, when his girlfriend was shot in the back of the head and found about a half mile away, police said.

It wasn't initially clear the woman had been shot, police said. Officers found her after responding to a report of a battery victim.

Tests at a local hospital revealed she'd been struck by a bullet.

The woman told officers she and Adams were at a party in the 1900 block of Mississippi Street. When officers went to that location, they found signs of a party but no people.

The case remains under investigation.

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