CROWN POINT — The man wounded in a shooting last year at the Hobart Walmart that prosecutors allege stemmed from a gang rivalry testified Wednesday he used to belong to a gang, but denied any knowledge of a current feud between that gang and another in Gary.
Kyran J. Hawthorne Sr., 26, of Gary, testified he was shot four times, including in the leg and back, on Sept. 30, 2018, at the busy retail store off U.S. 30. Hawthorne's then-9-year-old son also was wounded, but ballistics evidence showed a bullet that struck the boy wasn't fired from a gun that belonged to defendant Alex C. Hughes.
Hughes, 27, of Griffith, is standing trial this week on charges of attempted murder, aggravated battery, criminal recklessness, criminal organization activity and two firearm enhancements.
His defense attorney, Russell Brown, said in opening statements Tuesday that Hughes shot Hawthorne in self-defense.
Hughes' girlfriend at the time of the shooting, Shaqueta Wright, invoked her Fifth Amendment right Wednesday not to testify.
Brown said Wright drove Hughes away from the crime scene and could face charges of attempted murder or assisting a criminal if she testifies. Lake County Supervisory Deputy Prosecutor Michael Toth previously granted her immunity during a deposition, but he refused to extend the same offer for her testimony Wednesday.
The state has discretion about whether to offer immunity, and Toth said he decided against extending the offer to Wright after hearing Brown's opening statement and considering the matter overnight.
Over Brown's objection, Lake Criminal Court Judge Salvador Vasquez granted Toth's request to read Wright's previous testimony into the record.
During a deposition, she testified she attempted to approach police in the Walmart parking lot after the shooting but was told to stay back. She turned around and saw Hughes, who got into her car. She said she then drove to a nearby Chuck E. Cheese restaurant and later dropped Hughes off at a gas station in Merrillville.
Wright denied knowing whether Hughes used an acronym for the gang to which he allegedly belongs as part of his name on Facebook, saying she didn't follow him on social media, according to the deposition.
Vasquez granted Toth's request to ask Hawthorne and Hughes to each roll up their sleeves, revealing they each have a tattoo on their arm in honor of Jamari LeFolore.
LeFolore, 15, was shot to death April 4, 2011, in Gary's Glen Park section. When Toth displayed a photo of LeFolore that included writing affiliating the boy with both gangs, Hawthorne said he had seen the photo on social media and recognized the boy pictured as LeFolore.
Toth asked if the gang to which Hawthorne once belonged was at one time affiliated with the other gang, to which Hughes is alleged to belong. Hawthorne denied any knowledge of the two gangs' history or whether they had a falling out since 2011 that led to a feud.
Hawthorne, who wore a Snoopy sweatshirt with the word "civilized" beneath the popular cartoon character, said he had not been a member of a gang since he was released from prison for a robbery conviction.
He identified himself in surveillance videos from the Walmart the night of the shooting.
Under questioning by Brown, Hawthorne admitted his girlfriend's car was parked in an aisle directly in front of the Walmart's doors but he veered off and walked to the west toward where Hughes and Wright's car was parked.
Hawthorne testified he was not carrying a gun, and he denied pursuing Hughes in an attempt to confront him.
He also denied exchanging any words with Hughes either inside or outside the Walmart.
Detective Michael Equihua, of the Lake County Sheriff's Department, testified Wednesday afternoon about the many spent bullet casings he photographed both inside and outside the Walmart.
Three casings were found inside, along with one just outside and dozens more in the parking lot, Equihua said.
Some of the bullets were fired from a 9mm gun, which Brown said his office had turned over to prosecutors on behalf of Hughes. Others were fired from a .40-caliber handgun, which matched a gun carried by Hawthorne's friend and recovered by police inside the Walmart, Brown said.
Testimony was expected to continue Thursday.
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