Saturday, April 22, 2017

04222017 - Portage Indiana police officer involved shooting - William D. Spates killed during traffic stop

I am posting this, because rumors on the street were that a Portage police officer shot and killed an innocent man for simply running a stop sign ... Ahem

April 19, 2017 : William Spats was arrested and jailed for domestic violence of his wife and his children. Spats was charged with felony counts of strangulation and domestic battery and two misdemeanor counts of battery.

April 21, 2017 - 10:29 PM: William Spats was released from jail on bond, and with a no-contact order in place for his victims.

April 22, 2017 - 1:47 AM: William Spats was stopped by police on Royal Avenue - just houses away from where his wife and children resided = Spats was in violation of the no-contact order / in violation of his bond.


During my numerous years of domestic violence training, the one point that Chief Hendrick Kanavel and Judge Patricia Costello stressed to me was that the most dangerous times for a domestic violence victim is when they are leaving an abusive relationship and when the abuser is held accountable for his actions. This is the point in the relationship where the threat of homicide is greatest for the DV victim:
Tiara Thomas, Portage Indiana [11-18-2015]

Maria Contreras, Portage Indiana [08-12-2015]

Amanda Bach, Portage Indiana [09-16-2011]

Cynthia Cashner, Portage Indiana [04-24-2011]


Renee' Harrington - Michigan Officer Involved Domestic Violence Project





Investigation complete in Portage police involved shooting
NWI Times
May 25, 2017
http://www.nwitimes.com/news/local/crime-and-courts/investigation-complete-in-portage-police-involved-shooting/article_2d210fcd-4802-551d-879e-10b1baa4d702.html


VALPARAISO — The Porter County Sheriff's Department has wrapped up its investigation of the Portage police officer, who shot and killed a man April 22 during a traffic stop.

The results of the investigation have been turned over to the Porter County prosecutor's office, according to Sgt. Jamie Erow, public information officer at the sheriff's department.

Porter County Prosecutor Brian Gensel said Wednesday morning he expects to complete his review of the investigation by the end of the week.

William Spates, 39, of Portage, was shot by Portage police Officer Grant Crizer.

Spates attempted to run over Crizer during the traffic stop in the driveway of a home on Royal Avenue, according to the sheriff's department, which investigated the shooting with the assistance of the Indiana State Police.

Crizer reportedly stopped the blue 2004 Jeep Liberty at approximately 1:47 a.m. and Spates pulled into the driveway. At some point the suspect put his vehicle into reverse and accelerated rapidly into the officer’s fully-marked squad car, striking it, police said.


Witnesses initially reported hearing the officer yelling commands to the driver, and an engine revving, followed by six to seven shots, according police. Police could not say whether all the shots were fired by Crizer or if Spates had a weapon.

Spates had been released from jail on bond hours before the shooting. He had been arrested April 19 and accused of battering his wife and two children.

His home is just around the corner from where the shooting occurred.

Crizer, 34, was put on paid administrative leave. He was hired by the Portage police on Aug. 17, 2014 and had previously served on the Lake Station Police Department since January 2008.

About 50 people held a prayer walk and vigil May 7 on behalf of Spates outside his home in the 2700 block of Brown Street.










PORTAGE SHOOTING
UPDATE: Portage shooting victim had been released from jail just hours before incident
NWI Times
Apr 24, 2017  - 8:00PM
http://www.nwitimes.com/news/local/crime-and-courts/update-portage-shooting-victim-had-been-released-from-jail-just/article_fd7c729b-50c8-5f69-8f55-6951993fb246.html

PORTAGE — William D. Spates had been out of jail for just over three hours when he was killed in an officer-involved shooting Saturday morning.

Spates, of the 2700 block of Brown Street, was arrested Tuesday, April 19 and accused of battering his wife and two children.

Spates, who has a long history of arrests in both Lake and Porter counties according to court records, was charged with felony counts of strangulation and domestic battery and two misdemeanor counts of battery. He was transported to a local hospital for breathing problems and then transported to Porter County Jail.

Porter County Sheriff's Department spokesperson Sgt. Jamie Erow said Spates was released from jail on bond at 10:29 p.m. Friday. A 10-day no-contact order had been issued when he was arrested. His home is just around the corner from where the shooting occurred.

Additional details of the shooting were released by the Porter County Sheriff's Office Monday that indicated Spates attempted to run over Portage police Officer Grant Crizer during a traffic stop in the driveway of a home in the 5200 block of Royal Avenue.

Crizer made a traffic stop on a blue 2004 Jeep Liberty at approximately 1:47 a.m. Saturday. Spates pulled into the driveway on Royal Avenue. At some point the suspect put his vehicle into reverse and accelerated rapidly into the officer’s fully-marked squad car, striking it, police said. Witnesses initially reported hearing the officer yelling commands to the driver, and an engine revving, followed by six to seven shots fired, according to a news release from Erow.

Erow said she could not specifically answer as to whether or not all the shots were fired by Crizer or if Spates had a weapon. She said that is still under investigation.

"However, I can relay that evidence at the scene and witness statements show a Taser was deployed prior to shots being fired," she said.

According to the Porter County Central Communications incident history for the event, Crizer reported shots fired and that he needed another unit. He told dispatch that his vehicle was struck and the subject tried to run him over. He requested EMS step up their response. Another officer arrived on scene, helping to pull Spates from the vehicle and immediately began rendering aid with his tactical first aid kit. Portage EMS arrived on scene and pronounced Spates dead.

Portage Police Chief Troy Williams said Crizer, 34, has been put on paid administrative leave.

Crizer was hired by the Portage Police Department on Aug. 17, 2014. He had previously served on the Lake Station Police Department since January 2008.

"Officer Crizer has had no disciplinary incidents with the Portage Police Department. He has received one chief’s letter of commendation and was selected to serve on the department’s SWAT Team," said Williams in a news release.

Porter County Coroner Chuck Harris said in the release Monday that an autopsy was performed on Spates, 39, over the weekend. The results revealed that Spates received multiple gunshot wounds to the torso and head, leading to his death.

Harris said toxicology results are pending.

Erow said detectives and crime scene investigators with her department and the Indiana State Police worked throughout the weekend and are still investigating.        










Man Fatally Shot By Police Hours After Bonding Out of Jail
NBC Chicago
April 24, 2017
http://www.nbcchicago.com/news/local/Man-Fatally-Shot-By-Police-3-Hours-After-Bonding-Out-of-Jail-420285513.html
A police officer fatally shot a man Saturday during a traffic stop in Portage, Indiana, after the suspect rammed into the officer’s vehicle and “tried to run him over,” the department’s police chief says.

Officer Grant Crizer stopped a blue 2004 Jeep Liberty about 1:47 a.m. for expired registration, police said. The vehicle pulled into a driveway in the 5200 block of Royal Avenue, according to police. The vehcile was driven by William D. Spates, 39, whos had bonded out of jail about three hours earlier, according to police.

“At some point during the encounter the suspect who has previously been identified as William D. Spates (age 39) put his vehicle into reverse and rammed our officer’s fully marked squad car,” Portage police Chief Troy Williams said Monday in a news release. “Officer Crizer radioed that shots had been fired, he needed another unit and that the suspect tried to run him over. Additionally, Officer Crizer requested medics and then moments later requested they step it up.”

Witnesses to the shooting heard an officer yelling commands to the driver, a revving engine and then six to seven gunshots, according to the Porter County Sheriff's Department, which is investigating the shooting.

"Another officer arrived on scene helping to pull the subject from the vehicle and immediately began rendering aid with his tactical first-aid kit," the sheriff's department said in a Facebook post.

Medics arrived on the scene shortly after but Spates was pronounced dead, Williams said.

Spates’ driver’s license was “suspended-prior with 12 active suspensions,” according to Williams. He said police had previously responded to Spates’ home on April 19 for a disturbance, after which Spates was charged with strangulation, domestic batter and battery. Spates was held in Porter county Jail and issued a 10-day no contact order and bonded out April 21 about 10:29 p.m.

The Times of Northwest Indiana reports Spates’ home was just around the corner from where he was shot. A Taser was reportedly used on Spates and it was unclear if he was armed or not, the paper reported, citing police.

A booking photo of Spates was used by authorities to identify him after he was shot, the sheriff's office said.

Crizer, 34, was hired at the Portage Police Department in August of 2014 after working at the Lake Station Police Department since January 2008, Williams said. Crizer has had no disciplinary incidents with Portage police and serves on the department’s SWAT team.

"Officer Crizer also received the department’s Exceptional Service Award for his part in the apprehension without incident of an intoxicated driver on August 31, 2015 in which the suspect pointed his hand in the shape of gun at Officer Crizer and another officer and yelled, 'Gun,'" Williams said.

Crizer was placed on paid administrative leave which is standard procedure after an officer-involved shooting, Williams said.

The Porter County Coroner conducted an autopsy on Spates listing the cause of death as multiple gunshot wounds. A toxicology report was pending.

Detectives from the Porter County Sheriff’s Department and the Indiana State Police were investigating the shooting.










Coroner: Man Killed in Portage traffic stop shot in 'torso and head'
Chicago Tribune
April 24, 2017 - 7:03PM

A 39-year-old Portage man killed near his home in an officer-involved shooting early Saturday, just hours after he was released from jail, suffered "multiple gunshot injuries to the torso and head," according to the Porter County Coroner's office.

William D. Spates had been released from the Porter County Jail after posting bond just before 10:30 p.m. Friday, according to a press release. He was shot and killed just a little more than three hours later during a traffic stop in the 5200 block of Roylal Avenue, authorities said.

Spates had been arrested Wednesday after an incident at his home and charged with strangulation and domestic battery, both felonies, and two misdemeanor counts of battery, according to the release. A 10-day no contact order had been issued against him, prohibiting him from going to his house during that time, according to Porter County Jail records.

The officer involved in the shooting, who authorities identified as Grant Crizer, 34, was put on paid administrative leave, which is standard protocol for officers involved in shootings, Chief Troy Williams said. Crizer, who had been with the department since Aug. 17, 2014, had no disciplinary incidents during his time with the Portage police department, according to the release.

It was unclear why Crizer stopped the 2004 Jeep Liberty Spates was driving just before 1:50 a.m. Saturday.

A press release from the Portage police said the vehicle's registration was expired, but did not cite that as the reason for the stop. The Porter County Sheriff's office said late Monday that detectives had not yet interviewed Crizer.

"The reason for the traffic stop can not be determined until they speak with the officer that initiated that traffic stop," Sgt. Jamie Erow, sheriff's office spokeswoman, said. "I do not know one way or another if the plates were expired."

Spate's vehicle pulled into a driveway on Royal Avenue, according to a release Monday from Portage police. At some point, Spates put his vehicle in reverse, "accelerated rapidly" and "rammed our officer's fully marked squad car," according to releases from Portage police and the Porter County Sheriff's office.

The sheriff's office declined to elaborate Monday whether Spates and Crizer exchanged words before the shooting.

"This is still an ongoing investigation and can take weeks to complete," the sheriff's office said in a release.

Nevertheless, Erow said there was evidence that a stun gun had been deployed.

"Witnesses initially reported hearing the officer yelling commands to the driver and an engine revving, followed by six to seven shots fired," according to the sheriff's office release.

Crizer "radioed that shots had been fired, he needed another unit and that the suspect tried to run him over," according to a release. Crizer also requested medics and told EMS to "step up their response," according to the sheriff's office.

Another officer arrived on scene and performed first aid, but Spates was pronounced dead shortly after Portage EMS arrived on scene, the release states. Williams was informed and asked Porter County Sheriff's Department at about 2:05 a.m. to conduct an investigation into the officer-involved shooting, and Indiana State Police were also called to investigate, according to the releases.

Additionally, police determined that at the time of the traffic stop, Spates had a suspended license, according to police.

There is no body cam or dashboard recordings from the incident, as Portage police do not have that technology, Williams said.

Monday afternoon, neighbors around the scene of the shooting were out mowing their yards and coming and going from their homes. Any presence of police or crime scene tape was gone from the tree-lined Royal Avenue, which is a block long and dead ends, where the shooting occurred.

A neighbor on a perpendicular street a handful of houses away, Alma Rempis, said she saw the police lights from her window the night of the shooting. When she took her dog for a walk hours after the shooting, she said the smell of sulfur from the gunshots was still in the air.

Spates' home is just around the corner from the scene on Brown Street, about four houses away. Rempis, who has lived across the street for four years, said Spates had lived there for a handful of months before the incident.

Spates' wife did not comment Monday when reached by the Post-Tribune.

Porter County Coroner Chuck Harris said in a press release that William Spates' toxicology reports are still pending.

Before joining the Portage department, Crizer worked at the the Lake Station Police Department since January 2008, according to a release from Portage police.

Portage police noted in a release that in Crizer's time in working for the police department, he was selected to serve on the department's SWAT team, had one chief's letter of commendation and received the department's Exception Service Award for his part in the apprehension without incident of an intoxicated driver on Aug. 31, 2015, "in which the suspect pointed his hand in the shape of a gun at Officer Crizer and another officer and yelled 'gun.'"

"Despite any rush of adrenaline he might have been experiencing at the time, Officer Crizer was able to recognize the driver did not in fact have a gun in his hands," instead using a stun gun, according to the letter attached to the release from police.

Lake Station Police Chief David Johnson said in an email that Crizer did not have any disciplinary incidents while working for the department and "he was a good officer in his time here."











UPDATE: Portage man died of 'multiple' gunshot wounds
NWI Times
April 24, 2017 - 2:50PM
http://www.nwitimes.com/news/local/crime-and-courts/update-portage-man-died-of-multiple-gunshot-wounds/article_fd7c729b-50c8-5f69-8f55-6951993fb246.html

PORTAGE — The investigation into what happened in the early morning hours Saturday that led to an officer involved shooting and the death of a Portage man is still ongoing.

Additional details, however, were released by the Porter County Sheriff's office Monday morning that indicated William D. Spates, 39, of Portage may have attempted to run over Portage police Officer Grant Crizer during a traffic stop in the driveway of a home in the 5200 block of Royal Avenue.

Crizer made a traffic stop on a blue 2004 Jeep Liberty. Spates pulled into the driveway on Royal Avenue. At some point the suspect put his vehicle into reverse and accelerated rapidly into the officer’s fully-marked squad car, striking it. Witnesses initially reported hearing the officer yelling commands to the driver, and an engine revving, followed by six to seven shots fired, according to a press release from Porter County sheriff's office public information officer Sgt. Jamie Erow.

Erow said she could not specifically answer as to whether or not all the shots were fired by Crizer or if Spates had a weapon. She said that is still under investigation.

"However I can relay that evidence at the scene and witness statements show a Taser was deployed prior to shots being fired," she said.

According to the Porter County Central Communications incident history for the event, Crizer reported shots fired and he needed another unit. He told dispatch that his vehicle was struck and the subject tried to run him over. He requested EMS step up their response. Another officer arrived on scene helping to pull Spates from the vehicle and immediately began rendering aid with his tactical first-aid kit. Portage EMS arrived on scene and pronounced Spates dead.

Porter County Coroner Chuck Harris said in the release Monday that an autopsy was performed on Spates, 39, over the weekend. The results revealed that Spates received multiple gunshot wounds to the torso and head, leading to his death.

Harris said toxicology results are pending.

Erow said detectives and crime scene investigators with her department and the Indiana State Police worked throughout the weekend and are still investigating.

She directed any questions about the officer's status to Portage Police Chief Troy Williams. Williams wasn't immediately available for comment Monday morning.

Erow did confirm that Spates was arrested by Portage police at his home in the 2700 block of Brown Street Tuesday evening. The home is just around the corner from the shooting incident.

Spates, who has a long history of arrests in both Lake and Porter counties, according to court records, was charged with felony counts of strangulation and domestic battery and two misdemeanor counts of battery. He was accused of battering his wife and two children during an argument. He was transported to a local hospital for breathing problems and then transported to Porter County Jail.

Records indicate he was bonded out on Friday, April 21 at 10:29 p.m., said Erow.










UPDATE: Name in Portage fatal police-involved shooting released
NWI Times
April 24, 2017




PORTAGE — A Portage man is dead following an officer-involved shooting early Saturday morning. 

Roger Dunn said the sound of “five or six” gunshots jolted him awake early in the morning, so he peered outside to get a view of the dead-end street he calls home.  

Dunn said he saw a blue Jeep in his neighbor’s driveway, the driver’s side door ajar and a person lying on the ground, their face near the driver’s side tire.

The Jeep’s rear bumper was damaged and a Portage city police squad car — on the street perpendicular to the Jeep — also appeared to be damaged. Dunn said he saw a police officer on scene with his gun raised at a man. 

That man was identified by police Saturday night as William D. Spates, 39, of Portage. 

“I didn’t recognize the car," Dunn said. "The only people who come down this road are the people who live here."

In the early afternoon hours, Dunn and his wife watched as the blue Jeep Liberty — sealed off with orange crime-scene evidence stickers — was towed away with visible bullet holes in the front windshield, he said.

Saturday's Portage city police-involved shooting in the 5300 block of Royal Avenue is being investigated by the Porter County Sheriff's Department — with assistance from Indiana State Police.

The incident occurred in a quiet side-street subdivision with several homes in the vicinity. An active crime scene Saturday had more than 20 evidence markers scattered near the Jeep and the body, and Dunn said he observed two Taser probes on the ground.

Portage Police Chief Troy Williams confirmed in a news release that a police-involved shooting occurred at approximately 1:47 a.m. in the area. A Portage officer conducted a traffic stop on a vehicle prior to the shooting and “actions by the suspect during the encounter led to the officer-involved shooting,” Williams said in the release.

Few details were released by law enforcement in the hours after the shooting. It's not yet known if the suspect involved in the traffic stop was armed with a weapon, or why police initiated the traffic stop.

Porter County Coroner Chuck Harris said he was called to the scene at 6:45 a.m. Saturday. Spates was later pronounced dead at the scene.

Harris said Saturday afternoon he had not yet determined an exact time of death.

Even after the coroner arrived, it was several hours before the body was removed from the scene, Dunn said. An autopsy and toxicology was slated to be performed early next week, Harris said. 

Roger Dunn’s wife, Tricia Dunn, said she and her husband stayed up watching the investigation unfold from the couple's front porch. She said she noticed Porter County investigators appeared to require law enforcement officials to fill out a sign-in sheet whenever entering or exiting the crime scene, cordoned off with yellow police tape.

Tricia Dunn said an ambulance arrived on scene about five to 10 minutes after the shooting and medical personnel pulled out a stretcher for transport, she said. Shortly after that, the gurney was placed back into the ambulance, without a body, and police instead waited for the coroner to arrive, Dunn said. 

Porter County sheriff’s detectives, the Crime Scene Unit, as well as state police, continued investigating the matter into Saturday afternoon. 

Williams stated Saturday night the officer involved in the shooting would be named Monday.  He also said the officer was taken to Portage Hospital where he was checked out and released. 

Valeria Thomas stood on her front porch Saturday afternoon talking with a close neighbor about what they had heard overnight. Thomas said she awoke to the sound of multiple gunshots.

"It sounded like a 'Pop, pop pop!'" she said. 

During the overnight hours, at least a dozen police cars with flashing red and blue lights could be seen lined up and down Royal Avenue.

Thomas said she moved to the subdivision in March 2016. 

"It's been quiet up until now," Thomas said. 










Man fatally shot by Portage police officer
Chicago Sun Times
April 24, 2017 - 11:05am

A man was fatally shot by a Portage police officer during a traffic stop early Saturday in northwest Indiana.

At 1:47 a.m., the officer pulled over a blue 2004 Jeep Liberty in the 5200 block of Royal Avenue in Portage, according to a statement from the Porter County sheriff’s office.

The Jeep pulled into a driveway on that block, and the driver, 39-year-old William Spates, put the vehicle in reverse and accelerated rapidly into the officer’s fully marked squad car, striking it, according to the sheriff’s office.

Witnesses reported hearing the officer yelling commands to the driver and an engine revving, followed by between six and seven shots fired.

The officer reported shots fired and requested another unit, according to the sheriff’s office. He informed dispatchers that his vehicle was struck and the man had tried to run him over, then asked EMS to step up their response.

Another officer at the scene helped pull Spates from the vehicle and rendered aid with his tactical first-aid kit, according to the sheriff’s office.

Spates, a Portage resident, was pronounced dead at the scene.

An autopsy Sunday found Spates died of multiple gunshot wounds to the torso and head, according to the Porter County coroner’s office. Toxicology results are pending.

Spates had been arrested Wednesday by Portage police and charged with felony counts of strangulation and domestic battery, and two misdemeanor counts of battery, according to the sheriff’s office. He was released on bond at 10:29 p.m. Friday.

The officer was taken to Portage Hospital, where he was treated and released.

The Porter County sheriff’s office is investigating the shooting with assistance from Indiana State Police.










One Dead After Officer Involved Shooting in Portage
NWI Gazette
April 23, 2017
http://nwigazette.com/2017/04/23/one-dead-after-officer-involved-shooting-in-portage/

A traffic stop in Portage today led to an officer firing his service revolver and killing a man according to a statement from Portage Police Chief Troy Williams. Few details are available as the case is now being investigated by the Porter County Sheriff’s Department. According to the statement from Chief Williams, “on April 22nd, 2017 at approximately 1:47 a.m. an Officer from the Portage Police Department initiated a traffic stop on a vehicle in the 5300 block of Royal Avenue. During the encounter initial reports indicate actions by the suspect ultimately led to the officer involved shooting.”

Porter County Sheriff’s Department released acknowledging that they are investigating. The victim was identified as 39 year old William D. Spates of Portage, Indiana. According to the statement from the Sheriff, the officer involved in the incident was taken to a local hospital and was “checked out and released.” Neither the officers identity nor a description of the officer’s injuries were provided at this time.

Additional details regarding the incident are expected on Monday April 24.










Man Shot, Killed By Portage Police Officer
CBS News - Chicago
April 23, 2017 - 5:44 PM 


CHICAGO (CBS) — 39-year-old William Spates was shot and killed by a police officer in Portage, Indiana early Sunday morning.

CBS 2’s Sandra Torres spoke to Spates’ wife on the phone. She said she is devastated and not ready to speak on camera. She did, however, give permission to a family friend to speak on her behalf.

The man close to Spates did not wish to be identified. He said Sunday would have been his 40th birthday.

“All I could think about were his babies; they’re 4, 2 and a 14-year-old. He was a good guy, he took care of his kids and his wife. It’s sad that this happened.”

Portage police say the shooting happened around 1:45 in the morning when an officer was conducting a traffic stop on Spates’ vehicle in the 5300 block of Royal Avenue. Police added that initial reports show actions by the suspect ultimately led to the officer-involved shooting.

“My husband woke up to gunshots, he said five to six,” neighbor Tricia Dunn recalls.

Dunn lives across the street from where the shooting happened.

“We were all held hostage to the investigation playing out in front of us,” she said. “They told us that it was a traffic stop that ended up in a chase. Why this man chose our road — maybe he didn’t know it was a dead end — but it didn’t end well.”

Portage police said they plan on releasing more information on Monday, including the name of the officer involved in the shooting.

Online records show Spates had a history of resisting law enforcement and drug offenses.










AUTHORITIES INVESTIGATE FATAL SHOOTING INVOLVING PORTAGE OFFICER
ABC 7 News - Chicago
Saturday, April 22, 2017 - 10:45PM



PORTAGE, Ind. -- State and county authorities in northwest Indiana are investigating a fatal shooting early Saturday involving a Portage police officer.

The shooting happened during a traffic stop at 1:47 a.m. in the 5300 block of Royal Avenue in Portage, according to Portage police.

"During the encounter initial reports indicate actions by the suspect ultimately led to the officer involved shooting," Portage police said in a statement.

William D. Spates, a 39-year-old man from Portage, Indiana, was pronounced dead at the scene, according to the Porter County sheriff's office. His family has been notified.

On Monday, Portage police will release the name of the officer involved in the shooting, the Porter County sheriff's office said. Following the incident, the officer was taken to Portage Hospital where he was treated and released.

The Porter County sheriff's office is investigating the shooting with assistance from Indiana State Police.










Man killed by Portage cop during traffic stop: police
Post-Tribune
April 22, 2017

A man was shot to death by a Portage police officer during an early Saturday morning traffic stop, Police Chief Troy Williams said in a news release.

The man was pulled over in the 5300 block of Royal Avenue about 1:45 a.m. and took actions that led to the officer shooting him, Williams said in the release. No information on what those actions were has been disclosed, and Williams did return phone calls.

The man's identification is being withheld until his family has been notified, Porter County Coroner Chuck Harris said in a news release. An autopsy and toxicology report are to be done this week, the release said.

Porter County Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Sgt. Jamie Erow said the sheriff's office and the Indiana State Police are investigating, and that additional information would not be released until Monday.










UPDATE: Name in Portage fatal police-involved shooting released
NWI Times
April 22, 2017

PORTAGE — A Portage man is dead following an officer-involved shooting early Saturday morning. 

Roger Dunn said the sound of “five or six” gunshots jolted him awake early in the morning, so he peered outside to get a view of the dead-end street he calls home.  

Dunn said he saw a blue Jeep in his neighbor’s driveway, the driver’s side door ajar and a person lying on the ground, their face near the driver’s side tire.

The Jeep’s rear bumper was damaged and a Portage city police squad car — on the street perpendicular to the Jeep — also appeared to be damaged. Dunn said he saw a police officer on scene with his gun raised at a man. 

That man was identified by police Saturday night as William D. Spates, 39, of Portage. 

“I didn’t recognize the car," Dunn said. "The only people who come down this road are the people who live here."

In the early afternoon hours, Dunn and his wife watched as the blue Jeep Liberty — sealed off with orange crime-scene evidence stickers — was towed away with visible bullet holes in the front windshield, he said.

Saturday's Portage city police-involved shooting in the 5300 block of Royal Avenue is being investigated by the Porter County Sheriff's Department — with assistance from Indiana State Police.

The incident occurred in a quiet side-street subdivision with several homes in the vicinity. An active crime scene Saturday had more than 20 evidence markers scattered near the Jeep and the body, and Dunn said he observed two Taser probes on the ground.

Portage Police Chief Troy Williams confirmed in a news release that a police-involved shooting occurred at approximately 1:47 a.m. in the area. A Portage officer conducted a traffic stop on a vehicle prior to the shooting and “actions by the suspect during the encounter led to the officer-involved shooting,” Williams said in the release.

Few details were released by law enforcement in the hours after the shooting. It's not yet known if the suspect involved in the traffic stop was armed with a weapon, or why police initiated the traffic stop.

Porter County Coroner Chuck Harris said he was called to the scene at 6:45 a.m. Saturday. Spates was later pronounced dead at the scene.

Harris said Saturday afternoon he had not yet determined an exact time of death.

Even after the coroner arrived, it was several hours before the body was removed from the scene, Dunn said. An autopsy and toxicology was slated to be performed early next week, Harris said. 

Roger Dunn’s wife, Tricia Dunn, said she and her husband stayed up watching the investigation unfold from the couple's front porch. She said she noticed Porter County investigators appeared to require law enforcement officials to fill out a sign-in sheet whenever entering or exiting the crime scene, cordoned off with yellow police tape.

Tricia Dunn said an ambulance arrived on scene about five to 10 minutes after the shooting and medical personnel pulled out a stretcher for transport, she said. Shortly after that, the gurney was placed back into the ambulance, without a body, and police instead waited for the coroner to arrive, Dunn said. 

Porter County sheriff’s detectives, the Crime Scene Unit, as well as state police, continued investigating the matter into Saturday afternoon. 

Williams stated Saturday night the officer involved in the shooting would be named Monday.  He also said the officer was taken to Portage Hospital where he was checked out and released. 

Valeria Thomas stood on her front porch Saturday afternoon talking with a close neighbor about what they had heard overnight. Thomas said she awoke to the sound of multiple gunshots.

"It sounded like a 'Pop, pop pop!'" she said. 

During the overnight hours, at least a dozen police cars with flashing red and blue lights could be seen lined up and down Royal Avenue.

Thomas said she moved to the subdivision in March 2016. 

"It's been quiet up until now," Thomas said. 










Mayor: Investigation underway in Portage officer-involved shooting
NWI Times
Apr 22, 2017 

The Porter County sheriff and state police were called to investigate a shooting involving a Portage police officer early Saturday morning, the city’s mayor confirmed.

Portage Mayor James Snyder deferred all comment on details of the matter to his police Chief Troy Williams, who wasn’t immediately available for comment Saturday morning.

Snyder said the shooting occurred about 2 a.m. and that the sheriff and Indiana State Police were called to investigate a short time later.

The Indiana State Police post in Lowell confirmed the Porter County Sheriff’s Department was leading the investigation.

Follow more breaking details of this story as they become available at nwi.com.

Friday, April 21, 2017

04212017 - News Article - Feds level 2 new fraud charges against Lake County sheriff





Feds level 2 new fraud charges against Lake County sheriff
Chicago Tribune
April 21, 2017

Feederal authorities on Friday leveled two new fraud charges against Lake County Sheriff John Buncich.

The U.S. Attorney's office filed a new indictment against the sheriff, who was first indicted on a series of charges in November, adding new allegations of wire fraud, according to court documents. The new indictment listed wire transfers Buncich allegedly made on April 8, 2014, and Oct. 21, 2014, as the cause behind the new charges.

Buncich, former Chief of Police Timothy Downs and William Szarmach, of CSA Towing in Lake Station, were named in a multicount indictment in November alleging an illegal towing scheme in which the sheriff accepted bribes in the form of thousands of dollars in cash and donations to his campaign fund, Buncich's Boosters, according to court records.

A federal judge recently pushed back the date of the sheriff's trial because of the large volume of material defense attorneys must review to prepare for trial.

Buncich released a statement April 14 calling the charges "absurd" and vowing to fight the original federal allegations.

"For those who know me and my 45 years in law enforcement, you know that I would never compromise my integrity or professionalism and cannot be guilty of these charges; trust that I would never sell my office — not for any amount. I assure you that I am absolutely innocent," Buncich wrote.

The sheriff, whose department was in charge of deciding which companies were called for towing services, and the chief allegedly steered business toward towing operators in exchange for cash and checks, according to the indictment.

Buncich allegedly took more than $25,000 in cash bribes and $7,000 in checks from Szarmach and another towing operator identified as "Individual A," according to the indictment.

Buncich and Szarmach pleaded not guilty during their initial appearances in November.

Downs struck a plea agreement with the U.S. Attorney's office, which a federal judge has not yet accepted, admitting he allegedly cooperated with Buncich to solicit bribes from tow truck operators for favorable treatment.

04212017 - News Article - Feds add new fraud charges to sheriff's indictment



Feds add new fraud charges to sheriff's indictment
NWI Times
Apr 21, 2017 

HAMMOND — A federal grand jury has updated a bribery indictment against Lake County Sheriff John Buncich.

The U.S. attorney's office filed a superseding indictment Friday afternoon that repeats all of the original wire fraud and bribery counts first made Nov. 17 against the sheriff, his top aide and a Lake Station towing firm's owner.

The new 14-page indictment adds two new wire fraud counts alleging Buncich made incriminating money wire transfers April 8, 2014, and Oct. 21 2014, in addition to three others in 2014 and 2015 already alleged by federal authorities.

Buncich has pleaded not guilty and is awaiting trial, now scheduled to begin Aug. 7 in U.S. District Court in Hammond.

The government alleges Buncich used his position as sheriff to solicit and receive bribes in the form of campaign contributions between 2014 and last fall from a number of towing firms wanting county police business.

Timothy Downs, who served as second-in-command to Buncich, also was indicted in November and already has pleaded guilty to collecting towing firm kickbacks and has agreed to testify he did it under Buncich's orders.

William “Willie” Szarmach, operator of CSA Towing of Lake Station, is pleading not guilty to allegations he paid bribes to Buncich and Downs.

This comes days after Buncich released a detailed denial of the charges against him, in which he stated, "Trust that I would never sell my office, not for any amount."

Buncich's lawyer, Bryan M. Truitt, said Friday his client stands by his earlier statement, noting the superseding indictment filed Friday came "as a complete surprise." 

"He remains absolutely adamant that he’s done nothing wrong, that he’s completely innocent ... and we look forward to proving that at trial," Truitt said. 

Truitt added Buncich would "never sell his integrity" for "just a few thousand dollars."

"And if he was really to enrich himself, there’s a lot more contracts and vendors, the jail’s (food and visitation) services ... that are far more lucrative. If he was going to shake down someone, that’s who he would shake down," Truitt said. 

The FBI raided the sheriff's home and office Nov. 10 and seized large numbers of documents. The government has disclosed it has hundreds of photographs and recordings made during months of federal surveillance of the sheriff.

04212017 - News Article - New Charge for Sheriff Buncich - New count may indicate cooperation by Co-Defendant William “Willie” Szarmach



New Charge for Sheriff Buncich
New count may indicate cooperation by Co-Defendant William “Willie” Szarmach
NWI Gazette
April 21, 2017
nwigazette.com/2017/04/21/new-charge-for-sheriff-buncich

The United States Attorney has added an additional count of bribery to the indictment of Lake County Sheriff and former Democratic Party Chair John Buncich. According to court documents, the 6 count indictment was amended today to include a seventh count of Federal Program Bribery. The indictment alleges three bribes paid to Sheriff Buncich by co-defendant William Szarmach of CSA Towing as follows:
6/18/15 $2500 cash
4/22/16 $3500 cash
8/9/16 $1000 check and $2500 cash

According to the indictment, Szarmach and “individual A”, later identified as Scott Jurgensen, paid thousands in cash and checks to the Sheriff in order to receive additional towing. The most damning allegation involves the city of Gary where the Sheriff allegedly ordered officers to make additional traffic in order to increase revenue for tow truck operators. The additional charges may indicate that co-defendant Szarmach is cooperating with federal officials. Lake County Police Chief Tim Downs has already entered a plea of guilty and is believed to be cooperating with federal authorities.

The additional charge comes a little over a week after Sheriff Buncich issued a statement proclaiming his innocence to the media. In that letter Sheriff Buncich stated “I assure you that I am absolutely innocent. I assure you that the workings of the Lake County Sheriff in all its capacities will remain ongoing in perfect working order. I look forward to my trial and the vindication that will come from it.”

Sheriff Buncich was replaced as Lake County Democratic Chair during the party’s March election. Buncich cast the tie-breaking vote to select Attorney Jim Wieser as party chair over Lake County Commissioner Mike Repay after a vote miraculously ended in a 305-305 deadlock.

All criminal defendants are presumed innocent unless proven guilty in a court of law. A criminal charge is not evidence of guilt.

04212017 - Lake County Sheriff John Buncich - Indicted again with additional federal charges




Federally indicted Lake County Sheriff John Buncich, facing additional federal charges:



New Charge for Sheriff Buncich
New count may indicate cooperation by Co-Defendant William “Willie” Szarmach
NWI Gazette
April 21, 2017
nwigazette.com/2017/04/21/new-charge-for-sheriff-buncich

The United States Attorney has added an additional count of bribery to the indictment of Lake County Sheriff and former Democratic Party Chair John Buncich. According to court documents, the 6 count indictment was amended today to include a seventh count of Federal Program Bribery. The indictment alleges three bribes paid to Sheriff Buncich by co-defendant William Szarmach of CSA Towing as follows:
6/18/15 $2500 cash
4/22/16 $3500 cash
8/9/16 $1000 check and $2500 cash

According to the indictment, Szarmach and “individual A”, later identified as Scott Jurgensen, paid thousands in cash and checks to the Sheriff in order to receive additional towing. The most damning allegation involves the city of Gary where the Sheriff allegedly ordered officers to make additional traffic in order to increase revenue for tow truck operators. The additional charges may indicate that co-defendant Szarmach is cooperating with federal officials. Lake County Police Chief Tim Downs has already entered a plea of guilty and is believed to be cooperating with federal authorities.

The additional charge comes a little over a week after Sheriff Buncich issued a statement proclaiming his innocence to the media. In that letter Sheriff Buncich stated “I assure you that I am absolutely innocent. I assure you that the workings of the Lake County Sheriff in all its capacities will remain ongoing in perfect working order. I look forward to my trial and the vindication that will come from it.”

Sheriff Buncich was replaced as Lake County Democratic Chair during the party’s March election. Buncich cast the tie-breaking vote to select Attorney Jim Wieser as party chair over Lake County Commissioner Mike Repay after a vote miraculously ended in a 305-305 deadlock.

All criminal defendants are presumed innocent unless proven guilty in a court of law. A criminal charge is not evidence of guilt.












Feds add new fraud charges to sheriff's indictment
NWI Times
Apr 21, 2017 

HAMMOND — A federal grand jury has updated a bribery indictment against Lake County Sheriff John Buncich.

The U.S. attorney's office filed a superseding indictment Friday afternoon that repeats all of the original wire fraud and bribery counts first made Nov. 17 against the sheriff, his top aide and a Lake Station towing firm's owner.

The new 14-page indictment adds two new wire fraud counts alleging Buncich made incriminating money wire transfers April 8, 2014, and Oct. 21 2014, in addition to three others in 2014 and 2015 already alleged by federal authorities.

Buncich has pleaded not guilty and is awaiting trial, now scheduled to begin Aug. 7 in U.S. District Court in Hammond.

The government alleges Buncich used his position as sheriff to solicit and receive bribes in the form of campaign contributions between 2014 and last fall from a number of towing firms wanting county police business.

Timothy Downs, who served as second-in-command to Buncich, also was indicted in November and already has pleaded guilty to collecting towing firm kickbacks and has agreed to testify he did it under Buncich's orders.

William “Willie” Szarmach, operator of CSA Towing of Lake Station, is pleading not guilty to allegations he paid bribes to Buncich and Downs.

This comes days after Buncich released a detailed denial of the charges against him, in which he stated, "Trust that I would never sell my office, not for any amount."

Buncich's lawyer, Bryan M. Truitt, said Friday his client stands by his earlier statement, noting the superseding indictment filed Friday came "as a complete surprise." 

"He remains absolutely adamant that he’s done nothing wrong, that he’s completely innocent ... and we look forward to proving that at trial," Truitt said. 

Truitt added Buncich would "never sell his integrity" for "just a few thousand dollars."

"And if he was really to enrich himself, there’s a lot more contracts and vendors, the jail’s (food and visitation) services ... that are far more lucrative. If he was going to shake down someone, that’s who he would shake down," Truitt said. 

The FBI raided the sheriff's home and office Nov. 10 and seized large numbers of documents. The government has disclosed it has hundreds of photographs and recordings made during months of federal surveillance of the sheriff.











Feds level 2 new fraud charges against Lake County sheriff
Chicago Tribune
April 21, 2017

Feederal authorities on Friday leveled two new fraud charges against Lake County Sheriff John Buncich.

The U.S. Attorney's office filed a new indictment against the sheriff, who was first indicted on a series of charges in November, adding new allegations of wire fraud, according to court documents. The new indictment listed wire transfers Buncich allegedly made on April 8, 2014, and Oct. 21, 2014, as the cause behind the new charges.

Buncich, former Chief of Police Timothy Downs and William Szarmach, of CSA Towing in Lake Station, were named in a multicount indictment in November alleging an illegal towing scheme in which the sheriff accepted bribes in the form of thousands of dollars in cash and donations to his campaign fund, Buncich's Boosters, according to court records.

A federal judge recently pushed back the date of the sheriff's trial because of the large volume of material defense attorneys must review to prepare for trial.

Buncich released a statement April 14 calling the charges "absurd" and vowing to fight the original federal allegations.

"For those who know me and my 45 years in law enforcement, you know that I would never compromise my integrity or professionalism and cannot be guilty of these charges; trust that I would never sell my office — not for any amount. I assure you that I am absolutely innocent," Buncich wrote.

The sheriff, whose department was in charge of deciding which companies were called for towing services, and the chief allegedly steered business toward towing operators in exchange for cash and checks, according to the indictment.

Buncich allegedly took more than $25,000 in cash bribes and $7,000 in checks from Szarmach and another towing operator identified as "Individual A," according to the indictment.

Buncich and Szarmach pleaded not guilty during their initial appearances in November.

Downs struck a plea agreement with the U.S. Attorney's office, which a federal judge has not yet accepted, admitting he allegedly cooperated with Buncich to solicit bribes from tow truck operators for favorable treatment.






Saturday, April 8, 2017

Abbi and Bailey dog tags - A picture is worth a thousand words


A couple of weeks ago, Ken and I were talking about having to go down to the jewelers and get my necklace containing Abbi's and Bailey's dog tags repaired. After wearing them 24/7 for the past six years, they have started to show their age: they need to be re-engraved -with the date 11-17-2016 added - and the chain needs to be replaced, because the clasp keeps coming undone.

To avoid doing the mad search for dog tags in the bedding in the morning - I now try to remember to remove them before heading off to bed.

So, last night I was sitting at the dining room table talking with Ken, before I headed off to bed, and I slid the chain over my head, and without looking, I placed them on dining room table. Ken got up and came around to my side of the table to grab my coffee cup, and he asked me if I realized where I had placed my dog tags.

Ken and I: "WHOA!!!"  [Doggie spirits, eh]




Friday, April 7, 2017

04072017 - News Article - MARC CHASE: Culture of acceptance abets cycle of public corruption



MARC CHASE: Culture of acceptance abets cycle of public corruption
NWI Times
April 07, 2017
http://www.nwitimes.com/news/opinion/columnists/marc-chase/marc-chase-culture-of-acceptance-abets-cycle-of-public-corruption/article_7e48ab5e-9382-5aa3-97b6-e8a353bea454.html
A pattern of public corruption tediously repeats itself in Northwest Indiana, and we're all to blame.

It's not just the old adage of history repeating itself, which it clearly often does. Nothing is more true in the lexicon of Region political corruption than everything old being new again in the 70-plus public corruption felony convictions since the 1980s.

But drilling down into why the same common themes of bribery, fraud, extortion and self-enriching theft rear their ugly heads in our local government offices decade after decade requires some uncomfortable self realization.

Much of it emanates from a culture of acceptance, aided by the patronage notions of continuing to serve the leaders, who hand out jobs to county residents or their families.

We all should be reminded of the putrid cycle of corruption illustrated in the case of former Calumet Township Trustee Mary Elgin, who is expected to formally plead guilty to felony fraud charges Monday in Hammond federal court.

History repeating itself
Elgin and her son Steven Hunter filed the plea agreements in federal court late last month but await a formal acceptance of the pleas by a federal judge.

In those agreements, Elgin admits she extorted campaign contributions from her government employees and required them to work — on the government time clock — to further her re-election bid.

Hunter's plea agreement acknowledges he distributed his mother's campaign fundraising tickets, which township employees were required to sell or buy as conditions of their employment.

If any of these tunes sound familiar, you no doubt remember some of the golden oldies of Region public corruption.

In the 1980s, former Lake County Commissioner and then Sheriff Rudy "Bart" Bartolomei was criminally indicted, in part, for shaking down government employees for campaign contributions. He also was implicated in a scheme to inflate custodian fees at the Lake County Government Center that manifested themselves in bribes paid back to Bartolomei and other public officials.

Bartolomei ultimately pleaded guilty to two felony counts in federal court, was sentenced to 28 months in prison and became a federal witness against other corrupt politicos.

Culture of acceptance
Former congresswoman turned Gary city clerk Katie Hall took her own turn at the government employee shakedown game.

Hall served in the U.S. House between 1981 and 1985, then left Congress and become Gary city clerk.

Hall and her daughter, Junifer, were convicted of public corruption charges in 2003.

Hall has since died, but a culture of acceptance continues to follow her.

Each year, her namesake Katie Hall Education Foundation Inc. sponsors the Katie Hall Public Service Awards Luncheon. Region and national dignitaries regularly accept self-congratulatory awards from the foundation.

The foundation likes to celebrate that Hall was one of the congressional leaders who helped make Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday a national holiday.

It's difficult to conceive, however, how King, a visionary leader in civil rights, would celebrate a Gary official found guilty of shaking down government employees.

The culture of acceptance doesn't stop with the Hall case.

Most Lake County residents remember former elected county Surveyor George Van Til.

He ultimately pleaded guilty to felony counts of wire fraud in Hammond federal court, and the circumstances harken political deja vu.

Van Til was indicted for compelling government employees to perform campaign work on taxpayer time. He also was accused of directing an employee to remove a government computer's hard drive to conceal his tracks.

The culture of acceptance reared its ugly head in the Van Til case, as well.

Ahead of Van Til's sentencing, his attorney submitted more than 100 pages worth of letters  to the court in which dozens of political friends and allies — including sitting elected officials — carried water for Van Til as character witnesses.

In a "there but for the grace of God go I" move, officials including Indiana House Rep. Charlie Brown, D-Gary, and Highland Clerk-Treasurer Michael Griffin, wrote letters asking the court for leniency and essentially vouching for the character of a man who already had admitted to stealing from taxpayers.

Their support didn't stop with letters. A Times file photo shows Brown walking in solidarity with Van Til as the former surveyor exited the Hammond federal courthouse, having just pleaded guilty in the case. Griffin attended the same hearing to publicly show support for his friend.

Continuing cycle
The culture of acceptance also has elevated some public corruption felons to the ranks of sage advisers to sitting Region politicians.

Lake County political observers recognize Bob Cantrell as a longtime political operative, helping push proverbial buttons both behind and in front of the Region's political curtain.

Many also know Cantrell completed a federal prison term last year following a public corruption conviction for steering government contracts, and accepting kickbacks, while an employee of the North Township Trustee's office several years ago.

Cantrell had barely made it out of prison when he re-emerged in Lake County political circles, allying himself with sitting elected officials and even showing his face at the 2016 candidate filing deadline at the Lake County Government Center in Crown Point.

Unfortunately, many of Lake County's elected leaders, including Lake County Commissioner Mike Repay, have embraced Cantrell's political support in spite of the felon status.

Porter County isn't immune from the problem, either.

Last week, an earnest-looking Portage Mayor James Snyder bent over a map in his City Hall office while Portage High School students intently listened to the mayor explain upcoming city projects.

The students were participating in the annual Youth Government Day to learn about the way government is supposed to work. This particular scene, which exudes a veneer of wholesome learning, was captured for posterity in a published Times photo chronicling the event.

However, the image glosses over the very unwholesome reality that Snyder, though innocent unless proven guilty, is under federal indictment for allegedly accepting bribes in the awarding of city towing work.

Who's to blame?
In the end, who's to blame for the seemingly endless cycle?

The media? Public officials who serve as apologists for fellow officials who've been convicted of crimes against the taxpayer? The voters who keep electing people who perpetuate the cycle? The registered voters who may be disgusted with public corruption but don't even bother to vote?

How about apathetic citizens or disorganized parties of political opposition who don't run against the status quo incumbents?

It seems there's plenty of blame to go around in this cycle of political corruption, aided and abetted by a culture of acceptance.

The most important question is when will we all take a long, hard look in the mirror and decide what we can do to break the cycle.