Forty Trans Ams trailed from Crown Point to Johnsen's Blue Top Drive-In in Highland, where they rumbled to a rest. The Indiana Trans Am Club gathered the car enthusiasts for a memorial ride and car show in honor of 16-year-old Johnny Peluyera, who police say was killed in an attempted robbery as he was trying to sell his Xbox.
The 16-year-old's blue Trans Am sat, Johnny's photo propped up under the open hood of the car. His dad's white Trans Am sat next to it — a vehicle the teen admired growing up. John Peluyera, the teen's father, said his own love of Trans Ams started when he was 16 years old, too. He said he never would have guessed he would have had a 16-year-old son with the same passion.
“He's up there smiling,” Peluyera said. “He saying, 'Dad, you got a good group of people around you.'”
He said Johnny loved the history behind Trans Ams, the look of the classic car and the sound. He would know as soon as his dad turned into the neighborhood with his Trans Am, Peluyera said.
The father and son bonded over their shared interests and had gone to Johnsen's Blue Top Drive-In for car shows before.
“We have come here a few times,” Peluyera said. “I think that's what got his juices flowing when it comes to cars. It's a passion that runs in the family.”
Kelly Arroyo, Johnny's mother, was moved to tears seeing everyone gathered Saturday night.
“The support is overwhelming,” Arroyo said. “This is so special.”
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The ride began at 1516 Main St. in Crown Point, continued to Ridge Road and ended at the drive-in on U.S. 41.
Travis Wilson, president of the Trans Am club, said a family friend of the Peluyera family reached out to him because Johnny was a proud Trans Am owner and enthusiast.
His wife and club member, Laura Wilson, thanked the Lake County Sheriff's Department for escorting the memorial ride and was grateful to everyone who showed up.
“It's about the community and helping each other,” Laura Wilson said. “This family needs the support of everyone in the community.”
The Wilsons passed out vehicle decals that said, “In Memory of Johnny Peluyera,” arched around the Trans Am logo. Any donations collected were given to Johnny's family.
“We're trying to keep his memory alive,” Laura Wilson said. “We want the investigation to keep going. We don't want anyone to forget about him.”
It was a sentiment reflected by the teen's family, who is still searching for answers as to who could have done this to their son.
“We don't want this to fade away,” Peluyera said. “We want the individual who did this to be brought to justice. Because they didn't just take a life from our family, but from everyone who knew Johnny. He took a friend, a cousin, a grandbaby.”
Anyone with information is urged to call Detective Mike Equihua of the Lake/Gary Metro Homicide Unit at 219-755-3852. To remain anonymous, call 866-CRIME-GP.