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EAST CHICAGO — A 28-year-old man shot to death late Monday in the city's Calumet neighborhood had been targeted in the past but refused to allow anyone to run him out of town, his family said.

Marquis J. Dawson, of East Chicago, died from multiple gunshot wounds in the 400 block of Vernon Avenue, according to the Lake County coroner's office. The death was ruled a homicide.

His death marks the sixth homicide so far this year and the second in one week in East Chicago, records show.

East Chicago police have not yet released any details about the shooting.

The Lake County Sheriff’s Department Crime Scene Unit was dispatched to assist East Chicago police about 12:19 a.m. Coroner's investigators were called to the scene about 12:40 a.m.

Marquis Dawson was a quiet, strong-minded man, said his mother, Antela Dawson.

He was the oldest of her three children and recently had started to become more interested in his culture, family members said.

His siblings, cousins and friends all looked up to him, his mother said.

“He wasn’t scared of dying,” she said, crying. “I used to have to cut him off sometimes and tell him to shut up.

“I can see him now, telling me, ‘I know, Mom. I know.”

Family suspects link to 2017 case

Family members said they suspect Marquis Dawson was targeted because of his history with people close to the June 23, 2017, shooting death of Ashanti “Bundles” Walden in the 4800 block of Alexander Avenue in East Chicago.

Robert S. Currie, 23, of East Chicago, pleaded guilty Sept. 11 to voluntary manslaughter in Walden’s death.

That case has splintered the Calumet community, family members said. Dawson’s grandmother Delphine Sullivan has lived in the area for 55 years.

Family members said Marquis Dawson had been targeted in shootings in the past but was not wounded. Two of his vehicles were damaged by gunfire, one while he was driving it and another while it was parked in the neighborhood.

The family expressed frustration with East Chicago police, because they felt officers had not done enough to identify and arrest the people responsible for previous shootings.

In one case, police responded because the city’s ShotSpotter technology detected the gunshots, the family said. Crime scene investigators collected bullet casings at that time.

They wondered if any of the cameras in the area captured any images that could have been used to identify a suspect.

Marquis never encouraged his family to file police reports, they said.

“He didn’t want to tell. They call it snitching, so he didn’t want to go and file no reports,” Antela Dawson said. “He didn’t want no retaliation.”

The family had gotten word people wanted Marquis Dawson dead, and he was preparing to leave, his mother said.

“He talked to me about leaving,” she said. “He was ready to go.”

She wanted Marquis to stay in Kentucky during a recent visit, but he refused.

“He said, ‘I couldn’t stay, Mom, I got to come back and work. I can’t come down here and live off nobody,’” she said.

Instead, he planned to earn enough money to make the move on his own terms.

'He was worried about something'

Antela Dawson spoke with Marquis on the phone shortly before he was killed, she said. He told her he was returning home from Gary.

“He was worried about something yesterday,” she said, breaking into tears.

Instead, she received a call just before 11 p.m. and went to the crime scene on Vernon Avenue. She had not yet been to sleep, she said, as she sat at her mother’s kitchen table late Wednesday morning surrounded by family.

She had noticed young people gathering in a park near Vernon Avenue on Tuesday night and wondered what they were doing, she said.

When she spoke with her son, she told him about the gathering in the park.

But she didn’t warn him to avoid the crowd, as she often had in the past, she said.

“He was 28 years old. He was grown,” she said. “I just couldn’t keep treating him like that. Like, ‘Marquis, come in the house.’”

She prayed for her son every day, she said.

Family members expressed anger that they have not been able not sit on their porch on holidays and enjoy being outside, because of a fear someone might shoot at them.

East Chicago is a small community, and everyone in Calumet is connected in some way, they said.

The rivalry used to be between kids from the Harbor and Calumet. Now it’s kids from Calumet fighting each other, and older folks are trying to figure out why, family members said.

“He couldn’t even leave me a grandbaby,” Antela Dawson said, covering her face as she began to weep.

Map: Homicides in Northwest Indiana in 2017 and 2018

Check back at nwi.com for updates to this story.

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Public Safety Reporter

Sarah covers crime, federal courts and breaking news for The Times. She joined the paper in 2004 after graduating from Purdue University Calumet.