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Well-known East Chicago homeless man found dead; coroner searches for family

Well-known East Chicago homeless man found dead; coroner searches for family

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Jesus Mendez Suarez

The Lake County Coroner's office is searching for family members of Jesus Mendez Suarez. 

EAST CHICAGO — Police found a deceased man who was described as a well-known member of the East Chicago community. He had been known to be living in the city homeless for more than a year, police said.

Jesus Mendez Suarez, 59, died Thursday morning and the Lake County coroner’s office is searching for his family members.

At 6:45 a.m. Thursday police were called to do a welfare check on a report of a man lying in a parking lot at 2100 E. Columbus Drive, said police Deputy Chief Jose Rivera.

Police found Suarez dead lying face-down on the east side of a building. Police were able to identify him from past contact they've had with him.

Rivera said Suarez had been sleeping by the building for more than a year, repeatedly refusing assistance or services to find shelter.

“He was well-known in the community as a quiet person who never bothered anybody,” Rivera said. “Many people in the community would check on him and provide him with food and clothing.”

East Chicago resident Ricardo Moreno said Suarez was a veteran of the Navy. Moreno said he has known of Suarez living in the city for 30 years. The man frequented Subway and McDonald's, where employees came to know him well.

“He was a fixture, he was a landmark,” Moreno said. “Everyone here adopted him. With him, you see the kindness of people come out.”

Moreno said he is contacting veterans organizations to honor Suarez with a color guard ceremony and is also in contact with the founder of an East Chicago homeless shelter to have a memorial plaque installed.

Rivera said Suarez’s cause of death is unknown but early investigations by police have found no foul play suspected.

Suarez was taken to the Lake County coroner’s office, where he remains at this time. It is currently unknown if Suarez has family in the area. Anyone who is related to Suarez or knows his family’s whereabouts, should contact the Lake County Coroner’s office at 219-755-3265.

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Night Crime/Breaking News Reporter

Anna Ortiz is the breaking news/crime reporter for The Times, covering crime, politics, courts and investigative news. She is a graduate of Ball State University with a major in journalism and minor in anthropology. 219-933-4194,

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