HAMMOND — The death of an 18-year-old who was killed in an apparent road rage shooting has left a 6-month-old daughter without her father.
Jorge Roman, of East Chicago, died and another 18-year-old man was wounded late Thursday in the shooting that caused a car to hit a home in Hammond, police said.
Roman and another person in the car were struck by the gunfire about 8 p.m. in the 400 block of 165th Street, authorities said.
Arianah Cruz, Roman's girlfriend, said at a press conference Friday at the Hammond Police Department that Roman and the other passengers in the car were on their way to someone's house for the Fourth of July when the shooting happened. Now she is filled with questions — especially concerning the baby girl she and Roman were raising together.
“I have a 6-month-old daughter,” Cruz said. “And what am I going to explain to her when she's older? How am I going to explain to her that her father got killed for no reason? It needs to stop. Everything just needs to stop. All of the violence, the guns. Everything just needs to stop.”
Cruz said Roman was a loving father who always knew how to make his baby daughter laugh. From buying formula to changing diapers, he was the type of father "who would do anything" for his daughter, Cruz said.
"He was always there for me and his family, and now he can't be here anymore," Cruz said.
Cruz tearfully pleaded for anyone with information to contact Hammond police.
“He was murdered and taken away from his family and his friends,” Cruz said. “He was a loving son, brother, boyfriend and father. If you guys know any information please, please, reach out to us. I'm begging you. He's gone, and he's never going to come back.”
Cruz turned and tightly hugged her friend who stood nearby, crying into her shoulder.
“It doesn't seem real,” Cruz said as she cried.
Roman's death marked the first homicide of the year in Hammond, Lt. Steven Kellogg said. It was the first time in 38 years the city had gone so long into a year without investigating a homicide.
However, this was the second time this year that a car crashed into the house at the intersection of Blaine Avenue and 165th Street.
A memorial for a man who died in February sits at the base of the bridge at 165th Street and Blaine Avenue, across from the wreckage of Thursday's crash. On the evening of Feb. 6, Antonio Short, 25, of Hammond, died after he flipped his vehicle onto the porch of the house while being pursued in a police chase. Short was ejected from the car and suffered from blunt force trauma.
On Thursday night, witnesses told police Roman and the driver of a white vehicle were arguing as the cars traveled side by side on 165th. The driver of the white vehicle began shooting at the maroon Chevrolet Monte Carlo that Roman was in, striking Roman and another 18-year-old, according to reports.
The Monte Carlo then crashed into the house, Kellogg said. No one inside the house was injured.
The driver of the white vehicle fled west across the Illinois state line, he said.
The other person in the Monte Carlo was taken by ambulance to Franciscan Health hospital in Hammond. No new information on the man's condition was available Friday.
Roman was pronounced dead at the scene from a gunshot wound, according to the Lake County coroner's office. The death was ruled a homicide.
Danny Gonzalez, a neighbor across the street, said he was walking out on his front porch to smoke a cigarette when he saw the shooting. Gonzalez said he saw a driver in a white vehicle point a firearm toward the Monte Carlo.
"It sounded like a fire cracker, but it wasn't," Gonzalez said.
He then saw the Monte Carlo veer off before smashing into his neighbor's house.
Gonzalez ran to the crash and called 911. He said he tried to keep the injured passenger calm until paramedics arrived a few minutes later.
Gonzalez said he served as a firefighter with the Lake Station Fire Department for seven years and has seen some bad crashes in his time.
"It was horrific," Gonzalez said. "It's very sad to see it, especially being young kids."