A shooting Saturday night at an East Chicago gas station killed a Hammond man and wounded former E.C. Central football star Martayveus "Marty" Carter, 23, a running back who smashed records in Division II college football and recently worked out for a National Football League team.
Brian Thomas, 30, of Hammond, was pronounced dead from a gunshot wound. The manner of death is being ruled as a homicide, according to a news release from the Lake County coroner's office.
Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn confirmed Carter is there at the hospital in south suburban Illinois in critical condition.
East Chicago Detective Sgt. Terence Fife said police were investigating the shooting, which took place late Saturday night or early Sunday morning at the Fuel Star Gas Station near Kennedy Avenue and 149th Street. Photos appear to show the back window of a vehicle was shot out and multiple shell casings on the ground.
A Medico-Legal Death Investigation team was dispatched at 12:58 a.m. to St. Catherine Hospital in East Chicago.
Carter, The Times 2013 Defensive Player of the Year, helped lead East Chicago Central High School football team to its first sectional and regional championships in program history in 2013. The two-way speedster set the high school's all-time tackle record with 505 and scoring mark with 53 touchdowns.
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He went on to play college football at Grand Valley State University in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where he broke the school record for rushing yards and led all of Division II with 1,908 rushing yards and 20 rushing touchdowns in 2016.
He declared for the National Football League's supplemental draft and had recently worked out with the Kansas City Chiefs. Grand Valley State University Lakers football coach Matt Mitchell said all 32 NFL teams had called him about Carter, who rushed for 2,797 yards on 391 carries and caught 19 receptions for 125 yards, racking up 28 total touchdowns during his collegiate career.
"It's devastating," Mitchell said. "He was a good person at heart. He had some highs and some lows. My heart goes out to his family and what they're going through right now."
Carter had a 2.5 GPA, was in good academic standing and was one semester away from graduating, but put school on hold to try to pursue a career in the NFL, said Mitchell, who told Carter he would help him finish up his degree at any time in the future. Carter had hired an agent, declared for the supplemental draft and was a free agent who had attracted some attention because of statistics.
"He was very motivated by the dream of playing in the NFL," Mitchell said. "He was a ferocious competitor when he was carrying the ball. He was the all-time leading rusher at Grand Valley State, which says a lot with the football tradition here."
The first-team All-American, known for his blazing speed, picked up a number of honors at Grand Valley State, including National Offensive Player of the Year, Division II Football Hero of the Week, Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Offensive Back of the Year, GLIAC rushing leader, and Grand Valley State single-season rushing leader. In his last season as a junior, before running into academic issues, the 6-foot-tall, 200-pound running back rushed for a whopping 7.6 yards per carry.
In addition to being a gridiron standout, Carter is a father with two children.
"He and his family, his parents, were part of our program," Mitchell said. "His teammates have been exchanging text messages. They're worried about him right now."
Carter had committed to play Division I college football at Northern Illinois University, a mid-major football program that had reportedly offered him a scholarship, but ultimately never applied to the school or signed a National Letter of Intent.
At East Chicago Central, Carter made history, leading the Cardinals to an 11-3 record and sectional title in 2013 as a running back, linebacker and a kick returner. He was second in career rushing at the school with 3,467 yards who was also known for electrifying kick returns and athletic interceptions that helped clinch postseason wins against Morton and West Side in 2013. He scored four touchdowns on 291 yards rushing in the West Side game, as well as the game-winning 2-yard touchdown against No. 3-ranked New Prairie in the Class 4A regional championship, prompting overjoyed E.C. Central fans to rush the field at Pete Rucinski Field.
He's overcome family trauma, including when his mother Sharon Carter was hit on the streets of East Chicago and dragged for a block while pregnant, an accident that put her in a wheelchair, according to Times archives. Her brother Percy Long, a star football player in California in the late 1980s, was shot dead by a skinhead.
"It's like I'm reliving his life," Martayveus said of his uncle in an interview with The Times in 2013, before he was supposed to head off to play college football at NIU. "I never had a chance to meet him, I know he wishes he could be in my shoes. Instead it's me. That's why I sent him a kiss. Now I'm doing what he would want me to do if he was still on the Earth."
Anyone with video footage, photos or information about this incident should contact Detective Miguel Pena at 219-391-8318. To remain anonymous, call 219-391-8500.
Check back at nwi.com for updates as they become available.