Subscribe for 33¢ / day

CROWN POINT — A 20-year-old man was found guilty at the jury trial Wednesday of aggravated battery and vehicle theft in the shooting of a childhood friend February 2016 in Gary.

The jury found Tyler L. Steffey not guilty of attempted murder, battery by means of a deadly weapon, battery resulting in serious bodily injury and misdemeanor theft.

The jurors deliberated for about two hours before reaching their verdict after a two-day trial. Steffey, who had posted a $4,000 cash bail, was taken into police custody to await a Nov. 3 sentencing date.

Steffey told family members in attendance he loved them while being led by bailiffs out of the courtroom.

“We'll get through this,” he said. “It's some bull.”

Aggravated battery, a level 3 felony, is punishable by three to 16 years in prison. Auto theft, a level 6 felony, is punishable by six months to two-and-a-half years in prison.

The state's case against Steffey mostly relied on the testimony of Kendra Skinner, who told the jury she was shot in the head and abdomen Feb. 19, 2016, while in her vehicle with Steffey in an alley in the 900 block of Chase Street.

The 19-year-old woman said she remembered laying bloodied in the alley watching her vehicle speed off from the scene. Skinner crawled to a neighbor's home, where a woman dialed 911, and she was eventually transported to an Illinois hospital.

Skinner said she and Steffey were friends since middle school, and had not been in any arguments before the shooting.

Steffey's attorney, Marc Laterzo, said in opening statements his client did not see Skinner on the day of the shooting, and there was no forensic evidence connecting him to the crime scene.

He asked the jury whether they could convict a man based on the testimony of a single witness, who had suffered a traumatic brain injury as a result of the shooting.

Deputy Prosecutor David Rooda said the state did not need to provide a motive for the shooting, but offered that maybe Steffey's intent was to rob his friend of her gun, cell phone and vehicle. 

Steffey declined to testify on his own behalf.


Courts and social justice reporter

Steve covers Lake County courts and social justice issues for The Times. The UW-Milwaukee graduate joined The Times in 2016 after reporting on criminal justice in New Mexico and Wisconsin.