GRIFFITH — Portage High School student Alayna Ortiz died last week as an innocent bystander in a botched robbery of her boyfriend, police said Thursday.
Police have arrested Giovante Marshuan Galloway, 21, of Gary, and his uncle Juarez E. Rogers on murder and other charges. Police also are looking to identify and locate three unidentified men accused of taking part in the robbery.
Murder, attempted robbery, burglary and attempted burglary counts have been filed in Lake Criminal Court against Galloway, who is being held without bond, and Rogers, 48, of Park Forest, Illinois.
Galloway appeared in court Thursday on the charges. No trial date has been set yet.
Police and the Lake County prosecutor's office said Galloway, Rogers and three of Rogers' cohorts from Illinois took part in the attempted holdup Jan. 9 that ended in the parking lot at the Park West Apartments, where one of them allegedly shot Ortiz in the head.
Griffith police Cmdr. Keith Martin told a news conference Thursday afternoon the identity of the man who shot Ortiz "is still under investigation."
"Based on the information we have now, we have no reason to believe Alayna was the intended target," Martin said.
An affidavit the prosecutor filed in court this week alleges Galloway and his uncle did target her boyfriend, William Michael Hawkins, 18, of Hobart, because he sold large amounts of marijuana he obtained from associates in California.
Authorities allege Hawkins had loaned Galloway marijuana for resale on the street and Galloway hatched the robbery because he couldn't make enough money to repay Hawkins.
Police said the plan went into effect after a delivery service brought a large amount of marijuana and vaping sticks containing THC — an active ingredient from marijuana — to a residence in the 4400 block of Madison Street in Gary where Hawkins stayed.
Galloway, his uncle and the three men twice attempted to steal the marijuana from Hawkins during burglary attempts, but a friend of Hawkins repulsed them by wildly firing guns at them, authorities said.
Hawkins and his friends fled the Madison Street address Jan. 9 and drove to what they thought would be the safety of a relative's home at the Park West Apartments in Griffith.
Unbeknownst to Hawkins, Galloway's group watched from a distance and saw Hawkins' group leave with bags they suspected contained marijuana, according to reports. They allegedly followed Hawkins' red SUV from Gary to Griffith with the intention of robbing Hawkins.
Hawkins pulled into a parking space at the apartment complex. Galloway's associates pulled up behind him to block him in and they walked up to Hawkins' SUV with guns drawn, records state.
Witnesses told police one of the men knocked on the SUV's window with the butt end of a pistol and attempted to open the door. Hawkins was driving away to escape when witnesses heard glass break and realized Ortiz had been shot, records state.
Griffith Police Chief Greg Mance said at the news conference charges were brought through collective efforts of Griffith police; the Northwest Indiana Major Crimes Task Force; the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; the U.S. Secret Service; the Indiana State Police crime laboratory; the Lake and Porter County prosecutor's offices; the Lake County coroner; the South Suburban Illinois Task Force; the Northwest Regional SWAT team; the Chicago Police Department; and others.
"Two of the known offenders responsible for Alayna's murder, Galloway and Rogers, will answer for the heinous crime," Mance said.
Martin said Thursday that Hawkins isn't charged with any crimes in this case, but court records indicate he has a history of violence and drug-related offenses pending in local courts.
Court records indicate authorities were able to reconstruct the crime by piecing together statements of several witnesses.
Hawkins told police someone in California "fronted" him marijuana and he still owed that person, according to a probable cause affidavit.
Galloway told investigators he had met Hawkins through school and bought marijuana from him because he gets "the best prices," court records state.
Galloway said he owed Hawkins $1,600 for marijuana, had numerous other expenses and did not have a job, according to an affidavit.
Galloway told police Hawkins would provide marijuana to him at a discounted price. Galloway could resell it and keep the profits, according to accounts. However, Galloway soon realized he would not be able to make enough money to pay Hawkins.
He called his uncle, Rogers, and together they planned to steal Hawkins' marijuana, sell that and then pay his debt to Hawkins, records state. Rogers brought along three men who told Galloway they intended to rob Hawkins, records state.
Police: 'Plotting' led to homicide
Galloway told police they drove to the residence where Hawkins was staying and one of the three unidentified Illinois men used a credit card to defeat a lock, but alerted Hawkins' friends inside, including one who fired shots in the direction of the noise. Galloway's group retreated to their car parked about 100 yards away.
Galloway's group allegedly waited until Hawkins arrived and emerged with friends from the home carrying several bags. Galloway's group followed them to Griffith, where the shooting took place, records state.
Galloway's group allegedly returned to the Madison Street address, stole cash, marijuana and televisions from inside and split up the valuables among them.
When police executed a search warrant Jan. 10 at the home on Madison Street, they found someone already had burglarized the residence. Galloway told police he and his associates returned to the home after shooting Ortiz and stole THC cartridges, marijuana and two televisions, records state.
Police ask anyone with information about the case to call at 219-924-7503, ext. 252. To remain anonymous, call 219-922-3085.
Check back at nwi.com as this story develops.