1 wounded in officer-involved shooting in Gary

Crime scene tape surrounds a home in Gary as police investigate an officer-involved shooting Aug. 1, 2017.

CROWN POINT — The mother of a teenager killed in a police shooting last August battled in court Thursday with municipal attorneys over access to information about her son's death.

Tasheena Brooks, mother of Ke-Monte Cobbs, appeared Thursday in Lake Circuit Court with defense attorney Robert Montgomery.

Montgomery told Magistrate Judge Stephen E. Scheele on Thursday that Brooks was stymied by police officials in her efforts to obtain records related to her son's death.

Cobbs, 15, of Gary, was shot Aug. 1 by a Gary police officer during a foot pursuit in the 5500 block of West 19th Place in Gary. Cobbs was allegedly armed with a handgun.

Brooks was named administrator of his estate Oct. 19.

She filed a subpoena for records on behalf of the estate Nov. 21 after municipalities allegedly failed to provide evidence and documents related to the investigation of her son's death.

The respondents are the City of Gary, Lake County Sheriff's Office, Merrillville Police Department, Hobart Police Department, Munster Police Chief Stephen Scheckel and Griffith Police Chief Ron Kottka.

Attorneys were present at the hearing to represent the City of Gary, Lake County Sheriff's Office and Town of Munster. No attorneys were present to represent the Hobart Police Department, Merrillville Police Department or Town of Griffith.

Montgomery said Brooks has filed records requests with the municipalities that investigated her son's death and the robbery that allegedly led up to it, but has either not received a response or had the request denied.

He said his client could not even get “basic answers” about who shot her son, or which municipalities were involved.

“Anytime a 15-year-old child is shot, our community screams for answers, whether (the shooting) was justified or not,” Montgomery said.

Montgomery said the shooting may result in legal action, but without even basic information, it was impossible for him to determine whether to proceed with a lawsuit.

John Kopack, attorney for the sheriff's office, said his office needed time to redact confidential information from documents, such as social security numbers and dates of birth. He said the sheriff's office has crime scene photos, but he wanted a confidentiality agreement regarding who has access to the photos.

Montgomery said his client refused to sign such an agreement.

“Everything should come to light,” he said.

Michael Tolbert, attorney for the City of Gary, said some records needed to remain hidden to protect ongoing investigations, though Montgomery noted the investigation into the shooting was complete.

Scheele ordered Thursday for records related to the investigation not be destroyed. He said the municipalities had one month to produce the requested records or file objections.

“Everything is going to be produced, subject to privilege,” Scheele said.

Brooks said after the hearing she wanted to see surveillance footage obtained from an apartment complex near the shooting. She said her ultimate goal was to learn the truth about her son's death.

"With all those police around him, you couldn't apprehend a 143-pound boy?" she said, dismissively. 

A status hearing is scheduled for March 13. 

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Lake County 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.