Try 1 month for 99¢

PORTAGE — A Portage man is dead following an officer-involved shooting early Saturday morning. 

Roger Dunn said the sound of “five or six” gunshots jolted him awake early in the morning, so he peered outside to get a view of the dead-end street he calls home.  

Dunn said he saw a blue Jeep in his neighbor’s driveway, the driver’s side door ajar and a person lying on the ground, their face near the driver’s side tire.

The Jeep’s rear bumper was damaged and a Portage city police squad car — on the street perpendicular to the Jeep — also appeared to be damaged. Dunn said he saw a police officer on scene with his gun raised at a man. 

That man was identified by police Saturday night as William D. Spates, 39, of Portage. 

“I didn’t recognize the car," Dunn said. "The only people who come down this road are the people who live here."

In the early afternoon hours, Dunn and his wife watched as the blue Jeep Liberty — sealed off with orange crime-scene evidence stickers — was towed away with visible bullet holes in the front windshield, he said.

Saturday's Portage city police-involved shooting in the 5300 block of Royal Avenue is being investigated by the Porter County Sheriff's Department — with assistance from Indiana State Police.

The incident occurred in a quiet side-street subdivision with several homes in the vicinity. An active crime scene Saturday had more than 20 evidence markers scattered near the Jeep and the body, and Dunn said he observed two Taser probes on the ground.

Portage Police Chief Troy Williams confirmed in a news release that a police-involved shooting occurred at approximately 1:47 a.m. in the area. A Portage officer conducted a traffic stop on a vehicle prior to the shooting and “actions by the suspect during the encounter led to the officer-involved shooting,” Williams said in the release.

Few details were released by law enforcement in the hours after the shooting. It's not yet known if the suspect involved in the traffic stop was armed with a weapon, or why police initiated the traffic stop.

Porter County Coroner Chuck Harris said he was called to the scene at 6:45 a.m. Saturday. Spates was later pronounced dead at the scene.

Harris said Saturday afternoon he had not yet determined an exact time of death.

Even after the coroner arrived, it was several hours before the body was removed from the scene, Dunn said. An autopsy and toxicology was slated to be performed early next week, Harris said. 

Roger Dunn’s wife, Tricia Dunn, said she and her husband stayed up watching the investigation unfold from the couple's front porch. She said she noticed Porter County investigators appeared to require law enforcement officials to fill out a sign-in sheet whenever entering or exiting the crime scene, cordoned off with yellow police tape.

Tricia Dunn said an ambulance arrived on scene about five to 10 minutes after the shooting and medical personnel pulled out a stretcher for transport, she said. Shortly after that, the gurney was placed back into the ambulance, without a body, and police instead waited for the coroner to arrive, Dunn said. 

Porter County sheriff’s detectives, the Crime Scene Unit, as well as state police, continued investigating the matter into Saturday afternoon. 

Williams stated Saturday night the officer involved in the shooting would be named Monday.  He also said the officer was taken to Portage Hospital where he was checked out and released. 

Valeria Thomas stood on her front porch Saturday afternoon talking with a close neighbor about what they had heard overnight. Thomas said she awoke to the sound of multiple gunshots.

"It sounded like a 'Pop, pop pop!'" she said. 

During the overnight hours, at least a dozen police cars with flashing red and blue lights could be seen lined up and down Royal Avenue.

Thomas said she moved to the subdivision in March 2016. 

"It's been quiet up until now," Thomas said. 

Subscribe to Daily Headlines

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Northlake County Reporter

Lauren covers North Lake County government, breaking news, crime and environmental issues for The Times. She previously worked at The Herald-News in Joliet. She holds a master’s degree in Public Affairs Reporting.