CROWN POINT — An East Chicago boy killed Sunday while he was trick-or-treating in his grandmother's Hammond neighborhood had just turned 13 and was "the best son in the world," mother Jasmine Anderson said.
Thomas DeLaCruz Jr. was killed and another 13-year-old boy was wounded when several men opened fire on a group of trick-or-treaters about 7:30 p.m. in the 3600 block of 167th Street, according to Lake Criminal Court records.
A 23-year-old Gary man charged Wednesday with murder and attempted murder in DeLaCruz's slaying told police he was handed a gun and felt like he had to shoot at the trick-or-treaters when his companions opened fire, according to court documents.
Desmond L. Crews, of Gary, was captured by a Hammond police officer after a father of one of the trick-or-treaters began chasing him from the scene of the shooting, Lake Criminal Court records state.
Crews has not yet entered pleas to the charges. An investigation into other possible suspects was ongoing, police said.
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'He was a kid'
Anderson said she was preparing Wednesday evening for her son's body to be released to a funeral home and didn't know "where to start or begin."
"He was the best brother, the best cousin, the best friend in the world," Anderson said. "He danced, he was happy, he was a kid.
"He loved his games, he loved football, he loved his mom, his dad. We were so family oriented."
Thomas was out trick-or-treating in Hammond's Hessville neighborhood, where his grandmother lived for more than 15 years, she said.
"He was being a kid out with his aunt trick-or-treating, walking with a group of kids," she said. "And some ignorant, sick person decided to shoot at kids."
According to court records, one of the trick-or-treaters, who was wearing a clown mask, told police he exchanged words with a man wearing shorts about 30 to 45 minutes before the shooting.
Before leaving the area, the man in shorts "threatened to get a .38 and shoot them," documents allege.
The group of trick-or-treaters traveled several more blocks before noticing a silver car occupied by five or six people, who appeared to be staring at the teenagers.
The teen in the clown mask told police the driver of the silver car parked, the people inside got out and one of them was the man in shorts. When another man from the silver car took a "shooting stance," the boy told his friends to run and gunshots rang out, records state.
Crews, who admitted he was wearing a yellow sweatshirt, was seen running with a gun before he was caught by police, documents state.
Surveillance video showed Crews discarded an item, later discovered to be a 9mm semi-automatic pistol and two magazines, in a storage barrel, records state.
Crews allegedly told detectives he was among those riding in the silver car. The man in shorts, who was seated behind Crews, "kept saying a group of people could have rolled him and someone was going to die tonight," documents state.
When the man in shorts pointed out a kid in a clown mask, Crews realized the trick-or-treaters were "just little kids," records state.
Crews told police others in the car handed him 9mm firearm and extended magazine. When he heard others from the car start shooting, "He felt like he had to shoot," records state.
Crews claimed he shot over the children's heads, but he wasn't confident he missed them because he saw a child collapse, according to court documents.
'Everyone is going to know'
Anderson said her son was taken too soon from his family, including his 10-year-old sister.
"She shouldn't have to go through this," she said. "I'm only 30 years old. I only got 13 years with my son."
Thomas was a protector to his little sister and was his father's pride and joy, according to a statement issued on behalf of the family.
Anderson said several funds were started to help the family pay for funeral expenses for her son. Donations can be sent via Zelle to firstname.lastname@example.org or via Cash App to $JasmineAriel91.
Anderson was planning a vigil for her son at 5 p.m. Thursday at the site of the shooting, she said.
"If I have to post his picture in the sky, everyone is going to know what this man did to my child," she said.
The shooting occurred about 30 minutes after Hammond's trick-or-treating officially ended, Hammond police Lt. Steve Kellogg said.
"While we are thankful for the community support, which led to the arrest of the person of interest, we are heartbroken that such an event could even occur," Kellogg said. "Our hearts go out to the families of these boys."
Anyone with information about other possible suspects is asked to call Detective Sgt. Chris Gootee at 219-942-4900 or Detective Sgt. Shawn Ford at 219-852-2998.