GARY — A 16-year-old Merrillville boy was fatally shot in the back over an Xbox, police said.

The boy — identified as Johnny Peluyera by the Lake County coroner's office — was trying to sell his Xbox to people he met online, Gary police Cmdr. Jack Hamady said.

During the transaction, which happened about 6 p.m. Wednesday in the 5000 block of Maryland Street, the prospective buyers asked to test the game console, using outlets on the outside of two Gary homes. Soon, a silver handgun was brandished, Hamady said.

Peluyera's father, who had been with him, told the 16-year-old to run back to their vehicle, Hamady said. But the boy was hit before making it to the car's passenger seat, with the Xbox still in his hands. 

After being shot, he was able to make it into the vehicle and the father drove them a short distance to the intersection of 51st Avenue and Maryland Street, where the father called 911. When police and first responders arrived, Peluyera was still in the car seat, showing no signs of life, Hamady said. 

Peluyera was pronounced dead at 6:47 p.m. by the Lake County coroner. The family declined to comment at this time.  

Hamady said the 16-year-old's death marks the 25th homicide for Gary this year — a 25% increase compared to the 20 homicides by June 2018. There were 40 homicides total in the city in 2018. 

The suspects — two black men in their late teens or early 20s — were last seen wearing hoodies and basketball shorts, Hamady said. The men fled the scene after the boy was shot. 

Police are currently investigating the shooting and searching for any surveillance footage that may have caught the suspects on camera. 

"The two suspects had to be from the neighborhood," Hamady said. "They lured [Peluyera] into the area. Someone has to know these guys. In the case of the last teen who was shot, an anonymous tip helped us find the suspect. We are hoping someone will come forward with information this time, too."

The Gary Police Department commander also cautioned the public to take safety precautions in buyer-seller transactions. He said the best way to prevent future tragedies such as these, is to make the public aware. 

"The Gary Police Department does not encourage buyers and sellers of these online apps meeting at unknown locations," Hamady said in a news release issued Thursday. "If you are going to make a transaction with an individual online, you should choose a police station parking lot or a public place."

Anyone with information is asked to call Detective Mike Equihua of the Lake/Gary Metro Homicide Unit at 219-755-3852. To remain anonymous, call 866-CRIME-GP.

Check back at nwi.com for updates as this story develops.

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Morning Cops/Breaking News Reporter

Olivia is the morning cops/breaking news reporter at The Times. She spends her time monitoring traffic and weather reports, scanning crime logs and reading court documents. The Idaho native and University of Idaho grad has been with The Times since 2019.