HAMMOND — Police shot a 15-year-old boy early Wednesday after he led them on a chase in a stolen car and crashed in a neighborhood just north of the Borman Expressway, officials said.
The boy was shot in the head and taken to a hospital, according to Hammond police and Indiana State Police.
One neighbor said her husband saw the driver of a white SUV attempt to run over an officer, then heard gunshots.
Neighbors — all of whom requested to remain anonymous out of fear for their safety — said they heard a lot of sirens and six gunshots: three followed by three more.
Indiana State Police took over the investigation into the crash and shooting, which occurred about 8:45 a.m. in the 7600 block of Jefferson Avenue in Hammond.
The chase began after Hammond police received a call that a car had been stolen, and officers spotted the small white SUV traveling in the city, police said.
The boy apparently crashed through a chain-link fence and hit a wall and sound barrier for Interstate 80/94 head-on. A white SUV could be seen in a ditch along the wall, just south of the 7600 block of Madison Avenue.
Three police officers were involved in the shooting, but few other details about how the shooting occurred were released.
The 15-year-old has been identified by family as De Avion Ashley, a high school sophomore from Hammond.
Demetrius Nash, of Chicago, Ashley's cousin, said the boy is responsive and receiving medical care at University of Chicago Medicine Comer Children's Hospital in Chicago.
“It was pretty bad in the fact that they took him to the intensive care unit,” Nash said of Ashley's injuries. “We are thanking God for his life.”
Nash said the family wanted to clarify information from original reports of the incident by making a statement.
“First, we as a family, which includes his mom Shaunna Willis, want to put a name to the victim De Avion Ashley, who is a 15-year-old child not a man as reports are saying,” Nash said. “Secondly, Hammond police shot an unarmed kid that was fleeing the scene in an obvious attempt to get away and not harm any pursuing Hammond officers. Lastly, we will be demanding the release of all dashcam footage and body cam footage.
"We stand by the belief as a family that Hammond police used unwarranted deadly force and that young black children are not target practice for police to shoot when they feel like it,” Nash said.
Indiana State Police said two of the officers involved in the shooting are black. The third is Hispanic.
The Times requested the police footage from the incident; however, the request was denied because it is an ongoing criminal investigation.
Officers involved in shootings generally are not required to give formal statements until after two sleep cycles. Hammond police wear body cameras that operate in sync with their in-car cameras. Video evidence will not be released while the investigation is ongoing, Kellogg said.
State police said they were called to investigate within minutes after the shooting.
As Hammond Fire Department medics took the 15-year-old away on a stretcher, his arms were swinging, a neighbor said.
The boy was the only person in the vehicle, and there was no ongoing threat to public safety, police said.
State police said the decision to release the names and statuses of the three officers will be made by the Hammond Police Department at the conclusion of the investigation.
State police said they plan to present their findings to the Lake County prosecutor's office for review and a determination on whether the shooting was justified.
The temperature hovered around 25 degrees Wednesday morning as neighbors talked about what they saw and heard.
One man said the 15-year-old must not be from the neighborhood, because he didn't seem to know the street dead-ends at the interstate.
"This is crazy," the neighbor said. "We don't normally have stuff around here like this. Not at all. It's normally a quiet neighborhood."