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Portage Police say shooting of Indy man may not have been random

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The Indianapolis man shot to death in Portage on Monday may have been killed by someone he knew, Portage Police are saying.

Sgt. Keith Hughes told the Chesterton Tribune today that investigators do not believe that the shooting of Wilson Rivera, 38, was random.

“We’re trying to track down the people he was with for the last few weeks and go from there,” Hughes said.

Rivera was found by officers at 5:48 p.m. on Monday, on the ground next to a vehicle parked in the 2100 block of Crisman Road, after a neighbor reported a suspicious vehicle at the home, sitting in the driveway with its lights on. The neighbor also reported hearing an apparent gunshot and seeing a subject running eastbound from the scene along the railroad tracks.

A forensic autopsy conducted on Tuesday in Mishawaka determined that Rivera had been shot once in the left side of the neck, Porter County Coroner Chuck Harris said this morning. Cause of death: an upper cervical spinal cord injury. Death would have been instantaneous, Harris noted.

Fragments of the bullet were recovered from the body and turned over to the PPD, Harris said.

Investigators have determined that the vehicle in question was registered to Rivera’s friend, an Indianapolis resident, Hughes said. That vehicle has been impounded.

Although identification found on Rivera’s body initially indicated that he was a Gary resident, he appears most recently to have resided in Indianapolis. “He was between Gary and Indianapolis quite frequently,” Hughes said.

Rivera did have a minor misdemeanor criminal history in Porter County, Sgt. Larry LaFlower of the Porter County Sheriff’s Police told the Tribune: an arrest in 1998 or ‘99 on a charge of failure to comply; an arrest in July of this year on charges of public intoxication and invasion of privacy.

Homicide in Portage

Meanwhile, on Tuesday, Portage Police Chief Troy Williams addressed the fact that his jurisdiction has seen two homicides in less than six weeks: the murder of Rivera on Monday, and the murder of Carl Griffith Sr. at his home on Nov. 1.

“Two homicides in a matter of two months” is “very concerning to the Portage Police Department,” he said. “The first incident involved a Portage resident and is believed to be a contract killing that originated in Gary. Despite the degree of difficulty in trying to solve this case, our department worked tirelessly with the Gary Police Department and was able to put the suspected killer behind bars.”

Rivera’s murder, on the other hand, “seems even more isolated than the first, as it involves a former Gary resident who recently moved to the Indianapolis area,” Williams said. “The degree of difficulty in solving the case will be more challenging than the first.”

Records provided to the Tribune today by the Coroner’s Office show that, since 2001, 39 homicides have occurred in Porter County. Of those, 13 or 33 percent were investigated by the Porter County Sheriff’s Police. Eleven or 28 percent occurred in the City of Valparaiso. And nine or 23 percent occurred in the City of Portage. In the six years since Jan. 1, 2007, Portage has seen five homicides.

“Our men and women in uniform will continue to make sure our residents are safe,” Williams added. “Minutes after the shooting (on Monday), our officers performed door-to-door canvasses, utilized the Lake County Sheriff’s helicopter, a Porter County Sheriff’s Department K-9, and even used such methods as Facebook to inform Portage residents of the situation.”

“Protecting our residents from outside influences is no new challenge to this police department,” Williams concluded. “At the beginning of this year we stated that we would keep our residents informed on the good and bad when it happens. Nothing has changed and the message to the ‘bad guys’ who commit a crime in Portage will continue to be loud and clear: We will avail ourselves of all possible resources and will not rest until you are brought to justice.”

 

 

Posted 12/12/2012