- Associated Press - Sunday, August 16, 2015

GARY, Ind. (AP) - Street gangs at war with one another over drug trafficking are driving a surge in homicides in Gary, law enforcement officials say.

After a double homicide Aug. 6 and two more shooting deaths early last week, Lake County Sheriff John Buncich went to the County Council and received $200,000 to pay overtime to put more county officers on Gary’s streets.

The crime wave is being caused by “street gangs warring over drugs,” Buncich said.

“White guys come into the city to buy dope, and the gangs are warring over that trade,” he said.

Of Gary’s 38 homicides so far this year, 58 percent are believed to be drug or gang-related, Gary police spokeswoman Lt. Dawn Westerfield told The (Munster) Times (https://bit.ly/1IUdoM9 ).

“Forty-two percent we consider unknown circumstances, domestic homicide, robbery gone bad, things of that nature,” she said.

The 38 homicides recorded so far this year represents a 72 percent increase from the 22 that Gary had recorded at this time last year. Gary recorded 46 homicides during all of 2014.

Gary does have a couple of gang factions at war with each other, Westerfield said, but she declined to discuss specifics.

“Anytime there is criminal gang presence, there is criminal gang activity, and unfortunately, that activity is often violent,” she said.

The 14 people shot to death in Gary since July 1 included 15-year-old Daja Brookshire. She was shot in the back Aug. 2 during a drive-by shooting while going to visit the home of a friend’s grandmother.

Her grandfather, the Rev. Chet J. Johnson Sr., challenged a crowd of mourners who gathered to grieve for her.

“Expose who these guys are. Expose them,” said Johnson, the pastor of New Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church. “Stop hiding these fellows out. Turn them in. If you don’t and you keep them in your house, you keep them in your proximity, we’ll be right here preaching your funeral, preaching your kids’ funeral, and we’ll keep doing it over and over and over again.”

An anonymous donor is offering a $2,500 reward for information leading to the arrest of Brookshire’s killer, police have said.

Westerfield said the percentage of people engaging in violent activity is small compared to the number of law-abiding, decent residents in Gary.

“There are many, many, many wonderful citizens all across Gary,” she said. “And unfortunately, I think that gets overshadowed sometimes by some of the bad behavior and the violence.”


Information from: The Times, https://www.thetimesonline.com

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