An incident at Munster Community Hospital in the early morning hours of Tuesday, June 16 involving a mental patient and two security officers resulted in the death of the patient and one of the officers.
According to a statement from the Lake County Prosecutor’s Office, Munster police were dispatched to the hospital regarding a physical disturbance between a patient and staff.
In addition to the police being called to the hospital, security guards also responded to the call where patient Jamal Williams, 22, was assaulting a nurse.
Reports state the guards, Ryan Askew and Benny Freeman, attempted to try and pull the nurse away from Williams, who they say was striking with one hand and grabbing at her with the other, but were overpowered by Williams. During the struggle Williams managed to place Askew in a chokehold causing him to drift in and out of consciousness.
Williams lifted Askew off the ground and continued to strike him. “One time when he became conscious during this struggle, he directed Benny to shoot him,” said Lake County Prosecutor Bernard Carter. “The nurse said he was really reluctant, with his hand on his holster, which he held for a few beats. He saw that Askew was going unconscious, so he shot twice.” One bullet stuck Williams in the face, killing him; the second bullet hit Askew in the arm. The bullet traveled into his chest causing his death.
Upon learning that one of the shots hit Askew, it is reported that Freeman had to be hospitalized. Freeman and Askew were both retired Lake County Police Officers as well as friends.
Askew retired from the Lake County Police Department in 2004 following a distinguished career, rising through the ranks to civil commander. He also served in the warrant division and the patrol division before retiring.
Deputy Lake County Coroner Willie Stewart was friends with both Askew and Freeman. He said both men served under him when he was with the Lake County Police Department. “He, Askew, worked for me in the Felony Warrants Division for about four or five years. He was an excellent police officer, believing in helping people, never forgetting his roots and never forgot the citizens of Gary,” said Stewart.
Stewart and Askew shared both a professional and personal bond. Askew was in Stewart’s wedding party and the two along with their families often vacationed together. He said several weeks prior to his death Askew had visited him and the two talked about being able to get out and drive their Corvettes this summer.
Stewart says he is also concerned with the pain that Freeman is experiencing following the incident. Like Askew, he says Freeman was an outstanding officer.
Askew, 59, is survived by his wife, daughter and two foster children. Funeral arrangements are pending.
An investigation is being conducted by the Northwest Indiana Major Crimes Task Force with the assistance of the Munster Police Department.
Investigators plan to obtain a statement from Freeman upon his release from the hospital. After learning that one of the shots he fired hit Askew, Freeman was admitted to the hospital for heart and respiratory issues.