Gary unsettled by child shootings

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Harmon Harton

By Jackie Harris, 411 News

Wednesday morning, Valerie Thomas Hopkins made a Facebook posting of her granddaughter Harmoni Harton, an 8-year-old who was wounded by gunfire while eating dinner. Hopkins said Harmoni is doing much better and is recovering. “The nurses had her out of the bed and sitting in a chair this morning. I want to thank everyone for their prayers.”

In separate incidents, gunshots fired into two Gary homes on the city’s west side resulted in serious injury to Harmoni and another child.

Both occurred Monday, June 19 and were the focus of the Gary Police Department press conference Tuesday morning.

In the first incident, Gary police received a call for service at approximately 5:15 p.m. for a gunshot victim inside a residence in the 2100 block of Chase Street.

Upon arrival, police learned that an 8-year-old female sitting at the dinner table was wounded when gunshots entered the residence, striking her on the left side of her stomach.

Several hours later, at approximately 9:30 p.m., Gary police received a call for service for a gunshot victim inside a residence in the 4300 block of W. 19th Avenue. Officers determined that a 9-year-old male was inside the residence when gunshots entered, striking him in the chest.

Both children were transported to Methodist Hospital Northlake by the Gary Fire Department. They both were later transferred to Comer Children’s Hospital in Chicago. The children are in stable, but critical condition.

Hopkins said the young boy is also doing better and the children are in nearby rooms.

Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson said in a press release Tuesday, “I was saddened to hear about these senseless shootings in our community, that have wounded and affected the lives of innocent children and their families. I will visit the children and families at the hospital today. I am praying for a healthy recovery.”

Several councilmen were upset about the shootings. Council President Ronald Brewer said Tuesday, June 20 that he has contacted the Indiana State Police, along with the Lake County Sheriff’s Department, hoping those law enforcement agencies will assist Gary in handling the shootings.

At the mayor’s press conference, Gary Police Chief Larry McKinley said, “We will work with all available resources to apprehend the person or those responsible for these shootings. The shooting incidents are under investigation. We are still conducting interviews and establishing witnesses.”

Lieutenant Thomas Pawlak of the Violent Crime Unit added the shooter or shooters remain unidentified, “Right now, it is not known if the incidents are related. We urge anyone with information about these incidents to call the Police Department. Citizens may also call anonymously at 1-866-CRIME-GP (1-866-274-6347).”

Appearing at the press conference to condemn the shootings were Gary City Councilman Ron Brewer and Lake County Councilman Jamal Washington. Both cited a need for more police presence on Gary streets.

Councilman Brewer said he will urge more Gary police officers be assigned to patrol. “The community is outraged by this. Police can only react to crime, but we know that when the city had help with patrols by the state police and county sheriff, the numbers went down. We have to restructure the department to get more police on the street.”

County councilman Washington said, “I have spoken with my colleagues on the council, and Lake County Sheriff John Buncich, to see what we can do to get more manpower in Gary.”

McKinley said his department is already working with the county and the state and welcomes more assistance.

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