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Former Hammond, Gary cop arrested, charged with Portage murder

Former Hammond, Gary cop arrested, charged with Portage murder

PORTAGE | A former Hammond and Gary police officer has been arrested and charged in the killing of the mother of three of his children.

Kevin Campbell, 31, of Hobart, was arrested Thursday morning by Portage police.

He is charged with murder in the slaying of Tiara Thomas, who was found covered in blood about 7:30 a.m. Nov. 18 in her unit at Park Place Apartments, 5970 Old Porter Road. She was taken to Methodist Hospitals Northlake Campus in Gary, where she was pronounced dead at 8:21 a.m. from gunshot wounds.

The motive, according to court documents, points to arguments over child support and other money-related matters.

A probable cause affidavit filed Wednesday in Porter Superior Court alleges Campbell shot Thomas sometime between 4:37 a.m. and 5:55 a.m. Nov. 18, then took their three children to school.

Police interviewed the couple's oldest child, a middle school student. The child told investigators that on the way to school that morning, they stopped at Columbus Park in Lake Station where Campbell dumped a bag the child believed contained shoes and other unknown items at the park. Police have not recovered the bag.

The affidavit indicates Campbell kept the three children overnight the night before Thomas was killed, which was unusual. It also alleges Campbell requested his oldest child bring him a key to the apartment nearly two weeks before the killing.

There was no forced entry into Thomas' apartment the morning she was killed, according to the court document.

The affidavit states Campbell paid Thomas nearly $1,500 per month in child support and the two often argued about the money and how it was spent. The charges indicate Campbell was in debt and his vehicle had been repossessed.

Portage Police Chief Troy Williams confirmed in a Thursday news conference that finances seemed to be a motive, but declined further comments on the case.

Thomas was discovered by her fiance the morning of Nov. 18. He found her body on the floor of the bedroom. Police recovered three 9mm shell casings, two live 9mm rounds and two slugs that had exited Thomas' body in the bedroom. They also found two pillows with holes in them, which appeared were used in an attempt to muffle the noise from two of the gunshots, according to the affidavit.

Campbell was interviewed by Portage police that morning, but denied leaving his Hobart home before he took his children to school. However, his own home surveillance system indicated the front door of the home was opened at 4:37 a.m. and again at 5:55 a.m., according to the document. According to authorities, that gave him sufficient time to drive to Portage, shoot Thomas and return home before he woke the children to go to school.

Williams said Campbell was deceptive with police concerning the whereabouts of his cellphone the morning of Thomas' homicide.

That deception, Williams said, moved Campbell from a person of interest to the prime suspect in Thomas' murder.

Williams called Campbell's actions "callous and calculating."

He said Campbell was taken into custody just before 6 a.m. at his Hobart home.

Williams said that, knowing Campbell was a former police officer and had additional weapons and body armor, police decided to deploy a SWAT team to arrest Campbell. The SWAT team, along with Portage detectives and members of the Hobart Police Department, set up surveillance at Campbell's home about 4:30 a.m. Thursday.

Williams said they knew Campbell usually drove his current wife to work each morning and planned to arrest him as he left the house.

"Our operation execution went flawlessly," he said, adding Campbell attempted to run when he saw police, but soon gave up when he saw the home had been surrounded.

"We know the public wants their police officers held to a high standard and when something like this happens, involving a police officer, it cast a shadow over all of us," Williams said during the press conference. "I hope that the speed in which we were able to develop our case and obtain an arrest warrant and take Mr. Campbell into custody shows the public that it does not matter who you are. If you come to our city to commit a heinous crime such as this we will find you and we will arrest you."

Hammond's police chief said last week he fired Campbell, a probationary officer, who had been identified by authorities as a person of interest in a Portage homicide.

Police Chief John Doughty said the officer was put on leave and stripped of police powers Nov. 18 after Portage police informed Hammond police the man was a person of interest in the homicide investigation.

Campbell was also a police officer on the Gary Police Department from Aug. 3, 2011 to Jan. 11, 2015, when he left to join the Hammond department.

According to records obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request from the city of Gary, while on the Gary department, Campbell had one written reprimand for an on duty car crash where he was found to be at fault. He also had two pending disciplinary actions, both involving charges of conduct unbecoming an officer.

Campbell left the department before disciplinary measures were carried out.


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Porter County Reporter

Joyce has been a reporter for nearly 40 years, including 23 years with The Times. She's a native of Merrillville, but has lived in Portage for 39 years. She covers municipal and school government in Porter County.

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