Chesterton Tribune



Suspect shot by officers after manhunt near Abercrombie Woods subdivision

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Three Illinois men who fled a traffic stop in Valparaiso were apprehended on Wednesday--and one of them shot by police officers--following a pursuit which ended in a crash on the Indiana Toll Road and then a manhunt in the woods and fields immediately east and south of the Abercrombie Woods subdivision in Chesterton.

The suspects have been identified as Dolton, Ill., residents: Kobe Robert Watson, 22; Armari Malique Lomax, 19; and Chaz Armoni Murray, 19. All three were being held at the Porter County Jail on a charge of resisting law enforcement. Lomax was also charged with auto theft. Law enforcement has not identified which of the three was shot by officers, although the Indiana State Police did say late on Wednesday that that suspect sustained non-life threatening wounds.

According to the Indiana State Police, at 2 p.m. Valparaiso Police received a report of three male subjects--at an unspecified location--apparently trying to break into vehicles. About 30 minutes later, at 2:35 p.m., a VPD officer patrolling in the area of Kingsdale Drive and Burlington Beach Road spotted a vehicle matching the description of the suspects’ and attempted to execute a traffic stop.

Instead, the driver fled eastbound on Burlington Beach Road, then north on Calumet Ave. before merging onto northbound Ind. 49, VPD Sgt. Joe Hall told the Chesterton Tribune this morning. The driver then entered the westbound lanes of the Indiana Toll Road at the Chesterton exit and continued just over three miles before crashing his vehicle at the 27.8 mile marker, at which point the three subjects fled on foot north, in the area of 1000N and Nautica Drive, at the extreme southeast corner of Abercrombie Woods, Hall said.

By 3 p.m. the far southwest side of Chesterton was flooded with law enforcement from a variety of agencies, including the PCSP, VPD, ISP, and the Chesterton, Porter, Burns Harbor, and Portage PDs. Chesterton Fire Chief John Jarka, accompanied by Deputy Fire Chief Nate Williams--the two of whom had been inspecting the new Subway on Gateway Blvd. at the time--broke off on hearing the scanner traffic and set up a post at the intersection of 1050N and C.R. 200W, “just to have an extra set of eyes in the area,” Jarka told the Tribune.

As the law enforcement presence grew, however--and isolated sightings of the three suspects were made south and east of that intersection--Jarka closed C.R. 200W to civilian traffic, soon followed by the eastbound lanes of 1050N.

Also responding to the scene was Officer Scott Cornelison of the Porter Police Department, with his K-9 partner Kilo, who was tasked to the horse stables at 182W 1050N, just east of C.R. 200W. According to Cornelison’s report, he and the stables’ owner walked to the rear of the property and, from a wooden fence there, observed the three suspects in the woodline approximately one-quarter of a mile to the south. Cornelison and Kilo, with BHPD Chief Mike Heckman and CPD Officer Mike Manion, began a track of the three, going east into an open field and then north before losing the track, Cornelison said in his report.

Cornelison then began a fresh track, with Kilo going south, then west, at which point the three suspects “popped out of some brush.” The suspects ignored Cornelison’s order to surrender, two of them hopping a fence but the third unable to escape Kilo, who “jumped on him” and took him to the ground, Cornelison said. “Kilo did not bite any of the suspects,” he added.

One of the two suspects remaining at large was subsequently apprehended in a wooded area north of the Toll Road--the ISP did not say how he was taken into custody or by which agency--while the third returned to the Toll Road, where he was seen by an ITRCC maintenance worker at the scene of the earlier crash, who “was outside of his truck and setting up traffic cones,” the ISP said.

The suspect succeeded in getting into the driver’s seat of the ITRCC worker’s empty maintenance truck, but the worker “grabbed the suspect by the shirt and told him he couldn’t take the truck,” the ISP said. The suspect responded by putting the truck in reverse and backing “quickly” into a semi, the ISP said. But while backing, the suspect was also driving in the direction of the ITRCC worker and several officers who “were closing in on foot,” the ISP said.

“At this time shots were fired by a Porter County Sheriff’s deputy and two Indiana State Police troopers,” the ISP said.

A Chesterton Tribune reporter near the scene at the time heard the gunshots--estimated at four to seven total, in two groupings--over the sound of the Lake County Sheriff’s Police Eagle 1 helicopter, which had joined the search shortly after 3 p.m. and was circling the woods and fields to the east and south of Abercrombie Woods.

The suspect, wounded, at this point put the maintenance truck in drive and managed to travel a short distance before crashing into a second semi, the ISP said. He then exited the truck, jumped into the median, and fled once again on foot onto C.R. 200, this time south of the Toll Road, where he was finally taken into custody, the ISP said.

The suspect was transported to Methodist Hospital Northlake Campus in Gary, where he was treated for non-life threatening wounds, the ISP said.

The PCSP has not identified the deputy who discharged his weapon except to say that the officer is a three-year veteran who has been placed on paid administrative leave, “as is standard for any officer involved in a shooting incident.”

“In an effort to allow for a thorough and complete investigation by the Indiana State Police, no further information on the officer or the incident will be made available until the investigation has been completed,” the PCSP said.

Nor has the ISP identified the troopers who fired. “This is an ongoing investigation and no other information will be released at this time,” the ISP said. “At the conclusion of this investigation all information will be turned over to the Porter County Prosecutor’s Office.”

The Duneland School Corporation, whose buses were taking students home at the time of the incident, was informed by law enforcement of the manhunt, and at least one bus serving Abercrombie Woods was diverted to the Westwood Manor subdivision, north of 1050N, where parents were asked to collect their children.

Fire Chief Jarka had this to say about Wednesday’s response. “I was just amazed at the coordination of the law enforcement officers. It was great to see the coordination when something that potentially serious was happening. Despite all the excitement, the officers had awareness, to call the Bus Barn, to call the schools. The mindset of safety over all was wonderful.”


Posted 9/5/2019





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