PORTAGE — A Portage High School student who was arrested Wednesday for allegedly threatening to "shoot up the school" told police he is affiliated with a gang and had previously been incarcerated in Minnesota.
The 15-year-old boy allegedly made threats of gun-related violence directed at the school during a verbal disturbance in gym class, according to a police report.
The teen told police he had made the threats at Portage after a group of kids in the class were "picking on him," hit him with a ball and he became angry.
The teen had also been in a verbal argument with his gym teacher regarding showing gang colors in which he allegedly refused to remove when told to do so.
The threats prompted immediate response from the school and police department resulting in the teen being arrested on charges of intimidation and disorderly conduct. He was transported to the Porter County Juvenile Detention Center.
It also prompted police to have extra security at the school on Thursday because "the social media machine is now claiming that a student is coming to shoot up the school tomorrow," Portage Police Chief Troy Williams said Wednesday evening.
According to the report released Thursday morning, the teen told police he had recently moved from Minnesota to Portage, where he was a member of the Crips street gang, and had had thoughts of shooting up his school there, but never made any plans or attempts to follow through. He allegedly told police he had been incarcerated in a juvenile detention facility there for eight or nine months for running away.
The teen's mother was interviewed by police and allegedly told them he wore gang colors in Minnesota, but that she had thrown away all of that clothing and had begun wearing the Crips colors when he learned his father and uncle were involved in the street gang.
She also told police her son does not have access to gun and that there are no guns in their home.
Portage High School staff and the school resource officer responded swiftly and appropriately once they learned of the threat, Williams said, adding the student did not have any weapons in his possession and did not pose a substantial threat to the students or staff.
MICHIGAN CITY — A Michigan City man was reported in stable condition Thursday after being run over by an SUV in a parking lot near U.S. 421 on Westwind Drive.
The victim, Jeffrey Luegers, 56, was lying on the pavement when the accident occurred, police said. He had a .415 blood-alcohol level, according to the police report.
Luers was recovering from fractures to his ribs and shoulder at Memorial Hospital in South Bend.
A Michigan City woman had just turned from Westwind Drive into the parking lot of Southwind Apartments on Wednesday night when she swerved to miss a white bag, police said.
While swerving, her 2012 Jeep Patriot ran over the man wearing dark clothing, who was lying down in a poorly lit section of the parking lot.
Inside the white bag were cans of alcoholic beverages, police said.
The woman had no alcohol in her system and did not appear impaired by drugs, police said. She isn't facing charges in the incident.
Initially, Luegers was taken to Franciscan Health Michigan City, where a blood test conducted revealed a blood-alcohol level over five times the legal limit. He was conscious and able to speak to the investigating officer at the hospital, police said.
According to police, Luegers lives at Pine Tree Court Apartments, a few blocks west of the apartment complex where he was run over.
PORTAGE — Two men are facing felony drug dealing charges and a third a misdemeanor charge following a traffic stop.
According to authorities, police stopped a car early Sunday morning on Willowcreek Road near Stone Avenue for an alleged traffic violation.
During the traffic stop, the officer smelled "a strong odor of unburnt marijuana," according to police, which led to the search of the 2005 Honda Accord.
The driver of the car, Bradley Huke, 28, of DeMotte, and passengers Thomas Lewandowski, 23, of East Chicago, and Joseph Loar, 23, of Wheatfield, all denied knowledge of any drugs in the car, police said.
During the search, police located several bags of marijuana, cocaine, crack cocaine, psilocybin mushrooms and several pills later to be identified as amphetamine and dextroamphetamine. They also located more than $2,200 either in Huke's possession or in the car along with fake Diet Coke and Pringles cans used to conceal some of the illegal drugs.
After consulting with the Porter County prosecutor's office on Monday, charges of level 3 felony dealing cocaine and dealing a schedule I, II or III controlled substance were approved to be filed against both Huke and Lewandowski. The two are also facing several misdemeanor charges ranging from possession of a controlled substance to dealing marijuana. Loar was charged with misdemeanor visiting a common nuisance charge.
Gallery: Recent arrests booked into Porter County Jail
GARY — Seventeen known gang members or associates on parole were brought in Wednesday night to Indiana University Northwest and were given two choices: Accept the city’s help and turn your life around. Or, continue a life of crime and watch how quickly law enforcement targets whichever gang next drops a body in Gary.
Nine weeks into 2018, and the city has already experienced nine murders, said Joy Holliday, who serves as coordinator for Gary For Life, the city’s holistic anti-crime initiative now in its third year.
“The level of violence in the city, we can’t tolerate it,” Holliday said.
With 48 homicides in 2017 — down from 51 in 2014 and 55 in 2013, the city’s Gary For Life program has made some strides in combating violent crime. But 2017 experienced a slight uptick from the 46 homicides in 2016.
The Gary For Life program relies on local, state and federal partnerships by coupling targeted enforcement actions in high-crime areas to reduce gang violence with mentoring, employment assistance, and youth violence prevention strategies.
One aspect of the program, dubbed “call-ins,” played out Wednesday night at IUN, when 17 known gang members or associates of gangs in Gary were invited to hear what Gary For Life had to offer. Only invited community members were allowed entry, and the doors were shut promptly at 6 p.m.
During the call-in, 16 men and one woman sat in the two front rows as Shalonda Ham, a Gary mother who lost two sons in March 2013 to gun violence, shared her story.
“Two sons in one day. That was a hard pill for me to swallow and I’m still grieving,” Ham said. “My message to you is put the guns down, find a job, learn a trade. Put (your mothers) in my shoes. Your mother doesn’t want to face nothing like I faced.”
A few of the men raised their hands when Ham asked if any were fathers.
“My son had a son. I’m raising my grandchild with the help of his mother now. You all don’t want your son to grow up without you,” she said.
After she spoke, an ex-gang member shared his story of redemption. After the call-in, social service providers and nonprofits like GoodWill Industries were on hand in the back to offer assistance and network.
As part of the Gary For Life program, authorities that make up the Multi-Agency Gang (MAG) Unit carries out targeted enforcement in gang-riddled neighborhoods, focusing on known, violent offenders and gang associates.
The MAG unit has targeted members of the Glen Park Affiliated, Get Fresh Boys, Aetna Boys and Fame, the Fifth Avenue Boys and All Sets in neighborhoods. The most recent enforcement action on the Fifth Avenue Boys ended a few shorts weeks ago.
Whoever’s gang commits a homicide next after Wednesday’s meeting will be the next group targeted, Gary Cmdr. Jack Hamady warned.
“We want you to be the messengers,” he said. “These are the rules.”
Gary For Life typically sees a reduction in crime in sections of the city during and immediately after the program’s enforcement actions, interrupting gang and drug activity.
There’s all this talk of mass shootings, like the recent tragedy in Parkland, Florida, Las Vegas and Orlando, Florida, but the real tragedy happens every day in cities in Gary, Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson told the 17 seated before her.
“Here’s the thing. Right here in Gary, we’re having mass shootings one person at a time,” she said.
After the meeting, Freeman-Wilson said she’s participated in nine call-ins since the start of Gary For life in mid-2014. With each one that passes, she’s optimistic.
“If we can get one or two people on the straight and narrow, that’s one less person who has to be buried or incarcerated,” Freeman-Wilson. “I’m hopeful.”
President Donald Trump told steel executives Thursday he plans to impose 25 percent tariffs on foreign-made steel across the board after a Section 232 investigation found elevated levels of imports threatened America's steel industry and national security.
"Our Steel and Aluminum industries (and many others) have been decimated by decades of unfair trade and bad policy with countries from around the world. We must not let our country, companies and workers be taken advantage of any longer. We want free, fair and SMART TRADE!" Trump tweeted.
The move potentially could have a huge impact on the fortunes of Northwest Indiana's steel mills. While more than 160 steel tariffs already are in place, they all target individual steel producers in particular countries, while the sweeping tariffs being proposed would affect any import of steel, making imports more expensive and locally made steel more competitive.
Ten blast furnaces, including a few at ArcelorMittal Indiana Harbor in East Chicago, have closed over the last two decades as imports have skyrocketed.
U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky, D-Gary, said action on the tariffs is overdue.
"Twice in the last 16 days, the President of the United States has said he would act on the recommendations of the Section 232 investigation that was presented to him on Jan. 11," he said. "It is time the President acted. Every day that our country waits to take decisive action is another day that threatens damage to our steel production capabilities and the livelihoods of our steelworkers and their families."
Alliance for American Manufacturing President Scott Paul agreed.
"Now it's time to act on the Section 232 investigation," he said. "We're on the brink of a potentially historic rebalance of America's trade priorities. We are confident a robust steel trade action is good for our economy. A decision to restore sanity to global steel markets will help create domestic jobs and preserve our national security. But to achieve those results, the president's enforcement action must be broad, robust and comprehensive."
But industries that consume steel have objected to the tariffs on steel and aluminum, saying they will raise prices and hurt manufacturers and consumers.
“As major users of steel and aluminum, we have been proactive in explaining to the administration that the (heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration) and water heating industry would be negatively impacted by an increase in tariffs, as would the consumers that rely on the products we manufacture,” Air-Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Institute President and CEO Stephen Yurek said. “While we have been pleased with the Trump Administration’s enthusiastic support for manufacturing, we believe this step to be injurious, rather than helpful, to our efforts to increase American manufacturing and create jobs."
Roy Hardy, president of the Precision Metalforming Association, and Dave Tilstone, president of the National Tooling and Machining Association, warned tariffs could hurt manufacturing companies that use steel, which employ 6.5 million compared to the 80,000 who work for the steel industry.
"The tariffs will lead to the U.S. once again becoming an island of high steel prices resulting in our customers simply importing the finished part," they said in a joint statement. "The lost business to overseas competitors will threaten thousands of jobs across the United States in the steel consuming manufacturing sector, similar to our experience in 2002 when the U.S. last imposed tariffs on steel imports. Those '201' steel tariffs resulted in the loss of 200,000 American manufacturing jobs because of high steel prices due in large part to the tariffs. President Trump campaigned on the promise to protect manufacturing jobs but by ignoring warnings from a wide range of manufacturers, his plan to impose tariffs will cost manufacturing jobs across the country."
Japan, the second largest steel producer worldwide, warned tariffs might spark a trade war.
“The 25 percent across-the-board tariff on foreign steel is ill advised and naïve," Japan Steel Information Center Chairman Tadaaki Yamaguchi said. "Rather than saving American jobs it will destroy many tens of thousands of good, well-paying manufacturing jobs from steel consuming industries. It will inevitably invite retaliation from America’s most reliable allies, ultimately hurting American non-manufacturing industries as well.”
Indiana University professor Keith Belton, the director of the School of Public and Environmental Affairs’ Manufacturing Policy Initiative, said trade policy must always balance efficiency and equality. He said any protectionist measure would have great benefits for a specific industry while slightly raising prices for everyone else, in this case steel users and consumers.
"The benefits are highly concentrated, and the costs are diffused," he said.
Steelmakers, who have suffered for years because of near-record import levels, celebrated as they expected their financial fortunes to improve.
Chicago-based Zekelman Industries, North America’s largest independent steel pipe and tube manufacturer, told its 2,300 employees they would get a $1,000 annual bonus when the tariffs take effect and for as long as they remain in effect.
"The Section 232 investigation confirmed what we have known for decades: that the domestic steel industry has been victimized by unfairly traded and dumped foreign products and the resulting damage has been both massive and a threat to impair national security," CEO Barry Zekelman said in a letter to workers. "Together, we have sacrificed and worked hard to become the best pipe and tube manufacturer in the world. The policies announced today will have a tremendous positive impact on our ability to compete and thrive. The playing field is being leveled and we will win a fair fight."