GARY — Jesse Cunningham chanted, “You can’t kill for nothing and tell us nothing" as he paced outside of the Gary Police Department Wednesday.
Cunningham was joined with friends and relatives to demand answers from the department after his son, Rashad Cunningham, was gunned down by an officer early Saturday.
The Gary police officer who pulled the trigger in last weekend's fatal shooting of a 25-year-old local man is Isiah Price III, according to sources with knowledge of the investigation.
The shooting occurred early Saturday in the area of East 23rd Avenue and Kentucky Street while police were responding to a call of shots fired, according to Gary police.
A spokeswoman for the city Police Department refused Wednesday to identify the officer and the Lake County Sheriff's Department referred the question back to Gary police, saying it is an open investigation.
Pam Jones, public information liaison with the Lake County Sheriff’s Department, confirmed her department is investigating the shooting.
The man killed in the shooting was identified by police as Cunningham.
His girlfriend and mother of his 1-year-old son, Heather Fox, 20, of Gary, said she wants to know what led a local officer to shoot Cunningham dead early Saturday morning as he sat in a parked car.
The family has been told nothing so far, she said, including confirmation of the officer's name who shot Cunningham. They obtained the officer's name from witnesses of the shooting.
‘Tell us nothing’
The release of the officer’s name by sources came as the victim's family members ramped up pressure by demanding answers at a recent City Council meeting Tuesday night and staging a protest Wednesday outside the police station.
About 20 people could be seen protesting with signs and a microphone in front of the Polk Street police station.
“They will kill your child, and tell you nothing," Jesse Cunningham said.
Fox said she wants the dispatch audio and wants to hear that shots were fired, prompting officers to the area.
"That's what I want to hear and that's what I better hear," she said.
Kim McGee, with the local Black Lives Matter-Gary group, made an appearance in support of the family, saying little information often comes out in countless police-involved shootings like this, which adds to the distrust between police and the community.
This is why the local BLM group has been pushing the city of Gary to create an independent, civilian-led police commission board to review misconduct allegations, she said. They’ve pressured city officials for such a board, but to no avail.
"This is just another example of why we have to keep having this conversation," she said. "It needs to continue."
No video available
According to Gary police, officers responded to a call of "shots fired" at 3:16 a.m. Saturday.
Police said they then encountered a parked vehicle with three occupants. They approached the vehicle to investigate, and, in the process, "a police officer's weapon was discharged, resulting in the death of Rashad Cunningham," police said.
Police declined to say whether the officer responsible for the shooting was placed on administrative leave.
Fox, who had been living with Cunningham in Gary, told The Times he had no criminal record and had a permit to carry a gun.
"I don't know where the gun was exactly at, but it wasn't in his hand," Fox said after talking to witnesses.
An initial check of online court records did not indicate he has any felony cases filed against him.
Court records show Cunningham had two misdemeanor cases filed against him, one for harassment and the other for disorderly conduct. The harassment case was disposed of in Hobart City Court with a finding of guilt in 2017, records show. The disposition of a disorderly conduct case filed against him in 2017 is unclear, and Lake County Sheriff Oscar Martinez did not immediately respond to a request for documents in that case.
'Where was the camera?'
Fox said she received a text message from Cunningham at 3:18 a.m., which conflicts with the time of the shooting as reported by police. The message was him just checking in and made no mention of any problems.
Fox also wants to know why there is no police video of the traffic stop and/or shooting.
"Where was the camera that night?" she asked.
Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson in a statement has said the Gary Police Department does not use body or dashboard cameras, so there are no recordings to release.
‘Time and patience’
Tensions flared at the Tuesday night’s City Council meeting in downtown Gary, where Fox and Cunningham’s family filled half the room, demanding answers from the council and the mayor’s administration.
They waited more than two hours to speak as council members discussed the planned Hard Rock Casino. The vote to rezone land for the casino was ultimately delayed another week.
Ivan Simmons, Cunningham's uncle, told council members he believes his family has been disrespected.
“We’ve been here for quite some time waiting to be heard. Our chests are filled with grief. I’m sure your Robert's Rules of Order would have allowed you to table certain business and allowed us to get that pressure off of our chest,” he said.
He then turned to the representatives for Spectacle Entertainment, the company behind the Hard Rock project, and asked: “Can you place in your proposal providing the Gary Police Department with cameras? Because they need them.”
At the council meeting, Fox accused the city of “trying to hide something.”
“If Rashad Cunningham did something wrong, they would have justified that right then and there in that first article. If he was disrespectful, if he was screaming, if he did something, they would have justified it right then and there. If it had been Rashad who had hit the police, there would have been dash cam video, there would have been body cam video. It would have been all there,” an emotional Fox yelled into the microphone.
“This (officer) is under investigation, so why is he still on the streets of Gary, Indiana?” Fox said.
Gary Council President Ronald Brewer said he told the family he wants whatever information can be released to be released while the investigation is pending. He said he plans to ask Martinez if the 911 call audio can be released.
"We have to let due process to take its course, and that's going to take some time and patience. It's going to take time for to determine what happened," he said.
During a vigil Monday night near the shooting site, the young man's mother, Tonia Simmons, said, "My son was not the type, he was not the human being in the flesh, that would create a problem. My son loved his kids; he loved his family."
Check back at nwi.com for updates to this story.