CROWN POINT — Marco Kuyachich, a former high-ranking Lake County police officer, died early Wednesday of a heart attack.
Kuyachich, 66, of Crown Point, leaves behind a 32-year career in law enforcement that saw him rise from a county jail guard to second in command of the county police force until his retirement several years ago.
“Marco was a dear brother, a fixture of our law enforcement community and will be missed,” said Roy Dominguez, who was Lake County sheriff from 2003 to 2010.
Kuyachich first became ill Sept. 28 at a wedding reception for Dominquez’s daughter, Maria, in Schererville.
“He was just saying goodbye to some friends to leave for home when he fell over,” Dominguez said.
“Fortunately, there were a number of emergency medical workers in attendance. They did CPR on him. They flew him up to Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago, where he later died of a heart attack."
Dominguez said Kuyachich’s father, a Serbian Chetnik fighter in World War II captured by the Germans, and his mother met at a Prisoner of War camp in Italy, where she was a nurse.
They married after the war. They and Marco, their only child, immigrated first to Canada and then Gary, where Marco's father found work at U.S. Steel’s Gary Works.
Marco Kuyachich graduated from Andrean High School in Merrillville in 1971 and soon joined the county police force, where one of his first assignments was a county jail guard.
Dominguez said Kuyachich held every rank in the county police department and helped organize the department's first SWAT team.
Dominguez, then an Indiana state police trooper, said he and Kuyachich first met in 1976, when they both were beginning their law enforcement careers.
Dominguez chose in 2003, when he was first elected sheriff, to make Kuyachich deputy police chief despite the fact Kuyachich had not supported him politically.
Dominguez promoted him to police chief in 2005, the position he held until 2011, when Dominguez left office and the next sheriff, John Buncich, reassigned him to transport county jail inmates.
Dominguez said Kuyachich’s politics had raised Buncich’s ire. Kuyachich briefly ran an unsuccessful campaign for sheriff against Buncich and later threw his support behind other Buncich’s political opponents.
Buncich suspended Kuyachich and five other county police officers in 2011 after federal investigators began looking into the illicit purchase of machine guns and laser sights.
Kuyachich never was accused of wrongdoing, but Dominguez said Buncich refused to let Kuyachich return to work, so Kuyachich retired.
Dominguez said Kuyachich’s funeral likely will be held late next week to give family and friends time to travel.