CROWN POINT — A jury seated Tuesday will decide this week whether Alex C. Hughes acted in self-defense when he shot a man outside the Hobart Walmart in 2018 or instead was attempting to murder a rival gang member.
Russell Brown, attorney for Hughes, told jurors Tuesday evening that Kyran J. Hawthorne Sr. and Hawthorne's friend pursued Hughes and Hughes' then-girlfriend into the parking lot and shot first, before Hughes fired his gun at them.
"He knew that if he didn't get them back as far as he could, he was not going to make it out of that parking lot — his girlfriend, the mother of his children — was not going to make it out of that parking lot alive," Brown said.
Hughes, 27, of Griffith, shot Kyran Hawthorne Sr., 26, several times, including once in the back, Lake County Deputy Prosecutor Jonathan Soverly said.
Hawthorne's then-9-year-old son also was shot, but not with Hughes' gun, Soverly said. Prosecutors aren't sure which gun wounded the boy.
Hawthorne might invoke the Fifth Amendment when called to testify, Lake County Supervisory Deputy Prosecutor Michael Toth said while the jury was not in the courtroom.
Hawthorne also informed prosecutors for the first time Tuesday the shooting stemmed from a dispute over Hughes' then-girlfriend, whom Hawthorne claimed he also had been involved with at some point, Toth said.
Soverly told jurors they would see a video showing Hawthorne and his friend running away.
"Alex Hughes is not running away," he said. "He's calmly walking toward them."
As Hawthorne took cover behind a minivan, Hughes pursued him and forced Hawthorne to retreat inside the Walmart, Soverly said. Hawthorn then raised his arm and fired shots that shattered a window at a restaurant attached to the Walmart, he said.
"What does Alex Hughes do after firing all those shots?" Soverly said. "He calmly walks away."
During jury selection, attorneys asked potential jurors when they believed a person's right to self-defense ended. All said it was when the possibility of injury ended.
In his opening statements, Brown admitted Hughes continued to pursue Hawthorne, but he said it was because "the threat was still there."
Hughes' gun held 30 rounds, but he only fired 16, Brown said.
"He just wanted to get the threat away from him," he said.
Soverly said Hawthorne's friend talked to police that night after they found him inside the store. Police recovered his gun.
Hughes was not taken into custody until nine days later, after police tracked him to a Gary home, set up surveillance, chased a car they believed he was in and eventually used a K-9 to find him hiding under a parked car.
Brown said police searched Hawthorne's car after the Walmart shooting and found a handgun with 12 rounds.
Toth objected when Brown said police found another associate of Hawthorne's in the parking lot with an AR-15 in his car. After a short discussion with Lake Criminal Court Judge Salvador Vasquez, Brown said the man had an AR-15 with 39 rounds.
The rounds in both men's guns "had Alex Hughes' name on them," Brown said.
Hughes is facing charges of attempted murder, aggravated battery, criminal recklessness, criminal organization activity and two firearm enhancements. Testimony was expected to continue Wednesday.