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Portage police chase runaways driving stolen SUV

PORTAGE | Two runaways led Portage police on a short pursuit Wednesday morning and were arrested after officers spun the stolen car they were driving into a concrete median.

Police said the SUV was stolen in a Lansing carjacking.

Portage police Officer Roger Peele used what police call at PIT maneuver -- or precision immobilization technique -- to stop the two teens who were in a stolen 2004 GMC Envoy reported stolen in a carjacking.

Officer Brian Graves initially tried to stop the SUV on U.S. 6 near Willowcreek Road for speeding about 2:30 a.m. when the SUV turned southbound on Willowcreek. Police said the SUV pulled into the parking lot of the Porter County Annex building and briefly stopped as Peele and Graves pulled in behind it.

When the officers got out of their cars to approach the SUV, the pair drove off through the annex parking lot and through the adjacent parking lot at Porter Portage Hospital campus.

According to police reports, Peele used the PIT maneuver as the SUV exited the parking lot, but the driver recovered and tried to drive off. Police said Peele used the PIT maneuver a second time, which forced the SUV to spin and strike the raised median on Willowcreek Road.

The officers reported the two 17-year-old boys in the SUV refused to exit the vehicle and had to be pulled out.

Police learned they were both runaways from a youth home in Vincennes, Ind., and the SUV they were driving was reported stolen in Lansing.

One of the boys told police they were in Chicago and were walking toward Indiana when they were approached by a person they did not know who told them they could have the stolen SUV. One of the boys told police they were trying to get to South Haven to visit a relative.

But police in Lansing report the SUV was taken just before 2 a.m. Wednesday from a resident of the 16900 block of Bernadine Street. The resident told police he arrived home about 1:45 a.m., pulled into his garage and walked around his house. While he was outside his house he was grabbed from behind by one person and punched in the face by another. He told police he was pulled to the ground and one of the attackers said, "Get the car."

He told police the two then drove away with his SUV, although he didn't recall how they got the keys.

The man was taken to a local hospital to be treated for his injuries.

Both boys were taken to the Porter County Juvenile Detention Center.

One was charged with fleeing law enforcement, resisting law enforcement, never obtaining a drivers license, possession of a stolen vehicle and was wanted on a warrant through Indianapolis Metro police. The second boy was charged with resisting law enforcement and possession of a stolen vehicle.

30 minutes ago
Police: Second teen charged in retired cop's killing

CHICAGO | Authorities have charged a second teen in the slaying of a retired Chicago police sergeant in March on the Southeast Side, police said.

Charged with one count of first-degree murder and two counts of home invasion is a 16-year-old boy from Whiting who was found on the East Side, Chicago police Sgt. Rick Wiser said.

The teen is charged as an adult but his name has not been released. Police also have another suspect, a 20-year-old man arrested in Hammond, who is in custody in that city awaiting extradition. He has not been charged.

Authorities previously charged a Hammond teen, Jesse Kazmierski, 18, of the 200 block of Grover Avenue, in connection with the March 10 home invasion and slaying of retired Chicago police Sgt. Elmer Brown, 73, in an apparent botched robbery attempt.

Police say the three suspects drove from Indiana to Brown's home at 115th Street and South Avenue G in the city's East Side neighborhood believing Brown had a lot of money stashed in a safe.

The three suspects allegedly forced their way into the Brown's home when his wife answered the door, demanded access to the safe and shoved the 72-year-old woman to the floor, shooting Brown in the face.

Brown died two weeks later.

Prosecutors allege the three fled without the cash. Wiser said they took a handgun, a rifle and a knife before returning to Indiana.

Wiser said all three items have been recovered. The handgun was recovered from a Calumet City home, the rifle was turned in to Chicago police through a Whiting source and the knife was recovered in Whiting as well.

Kazmierski allegedly told a Whiting individual about the crime and allegedly confessed to detectives. He is charged with murder and home invasion and is being held without bail. The 16-year-old was expected in bond court Wednesday.

Wiser praised Hammond and Whiting officers who helped them track down the suspects. In particular, Chicago detectives credit Hammond Capt. Ezequiel Hinojosa and Hammond Officers Jeff Miller, Mike Schmidt, Dave de Boer, Stewart Hinson and Steve Gurnsey for their help. In Whiting, Chicago police thank Detective Capt. John Sotello, Detective Sgt. Donald Greer, Detective Sgt. Brad Stelow and Cpl. Robert Gajewski.

"They provided a lot of intelligence, their knowledge of the community and the people in the community," Wiser said.

Brown had been with the Chicago Police Department for 38 years.

30 minutes ago
Police seek public's help indentifying men in store surveillance photos
Police seek public's help indentifying men in store surveillance photos

SOUTH HAVEN | Police on Wednesday released surveillance photos that show two men wanted in connection with the passing of counterfeit bills at a local grocery store last month.

Porter County police said two men tried passing counterfeit $20 bills Aug. 29 at Al's Supermarket, 392 W. U.S. 6.

Police said two men tried to buy small items with the fake bills.

The first man succeeded paying for a package of Parmesan cheese for $1.15 with a counterfeit bill and received change.

A second man tried buying a $1.19 package of gravy mix, but when the cashier questioned the bill, the man left the store.

Police said the first man was white, had a beard and was wearing a white T-shirt, shorts and black Nike shoes. The second man was white, wearing a blue shirt with horizontal stripes, pants, glasses and had a goatee.

Police said the two left in a GMC Jimmy or Chevy Blazer.

Anyone with information should call Porter County Sheriff's Department Detective Matthew Boone at (219) 477-3138.

1 hour ago Photos

Photos

Lake Station pursuit ends with arrest in Valpo

VALPARAISO | A Lake Station police pursuit ended in Valparaiso early Tuesday night with a 30-year-old Crown Point man taken into custody on a charge of a serious violent felon in possession of a firearm.

Michael Jordan also faces a felony count of resisting law enforcement and misdemeanor reckless driving charge, police said.

Porter County Sheriff's Cpl. Brian Gill said after hearing reports of the pursuit by Lake Station police and receiving a reckless driving complaint, he spotted the blue Pontiac vehicle eastbound on Ind. 130 near Froberg Road recklessly passing other vehicles and speeding.

The vehicle came to an abrupt halt on Ind. 130 near Yellowstone and Gill said he drew his gun and took Jordan into custody.

Police found an assault rifle with one round in the chamber and 44 rounds of ammunition in magazines within easy reach of Jordan in the vehicle.

Police learned Jordan is on parole on the original charge of voluntary manslaughter and has two prior convictions of possession of methamphetamines.

1 hour ago
Police: LaPorte man molested teen he met on Facebook

A LaPorte man is accused of molesting a 14-year-old boy with whom he was corresponding on Facebook.

Teddy Leslie II, 35, is charged in LaPorte Circuit Court with Class B felony sexual misconduct with a minor and Class C felony child solicitation.

According to police, Leslie met the boy through an acquaintance and began exchanging messages with him on Facebook where arrangements were made for them to have sex.

The man in late June picked up the boy from a local high school where he was taking summer classes and they drove to the nearby Creek Ridge County Park where the alleged sexual encounter took place.

According to court documents, police got involved when the boy's mother noticed some posts on Facebook that revealed the alleged sexual encounter between the man and her son.

Leslie could face as much as 28 years in prison.

1 hour ago
Top Fuel CrossFit to open in Highland

HIGHLAND | Top Fuel CrossFit plans a grand opening of its new Highland gym at 3150 45th Ave.

CrossFit workouts involve interval training, weightlifting, pylometrics, gymnastics and other exercises. The new Highland gym also has Top Fuel Sports Performance, a coaching and conditioning program targeted at young athletes.

The Top Fuel chain already has two Northwest Indiana gyms in Merrillville and Valparaiso. A celebration for the new Highland location is planned between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Saturday. Free Workouts of the Day, nutrition seminars and food will be offered

New members can get $50 off a first month's membership, as well as three free classes. The gym will offer classes from 6 a.m. to 6:15 p.m.

1 hour ago
Porter County crimeTimes

ARRESTS

Sept. 15-17

BATTERY | Ernest Barrientez, 31, 2775 Hamstrom, Portage

CHECK DECEPTION | John Horvath, 41, 609 W. 250 S., Hebron

DEALING IN A SUBSTANCE REPRESENTED TO BE A CONTROLLED SUBSTANCE | Tabatha Romo, 19, 3368 Primrose, Portage

DRUNKEN DRIVING | Chad Habhab, 24, Edmonton, Ky.; Steven Rodgers, 50, Michigan City; Shelley Seely, 44, 260 Stone Ridge Court, Chesterton; David Clark, 55, 2850 Eleanor, Portage; Courtney Haynes, 22, Hobart; Joshua Hopkins, 25, 986 Mill Pond Road, Valparaiso

FAILURE TO APPEAR | Peter Hunt, 30, South Bend; Brian Stamps, 44, North Judson; Michael Sullivan, 30, 717 Acadia Road, Valparaiso; Aaron Garcia, 27, North Judson; John Buda, 31, Hobart

HOLD | Michael Fleener, 30, 255 W. Brown St., Valparaiso

INVASION OF PRIVACY | Rozell Jiles, 24, Gary

POSSESSION OF PARAPHERNALIA, FAILURE TO APPEAR | Alexander Pappas, 27, 763 Eagle Creek Road, Valparaiso

PUBLIC INTOXICATION | Kenneth Simpson, 48, 1316 W. Porter Ave., Chesterton

THEFT | Brendan Rios, 18, 3265 Atlanta, Portage

WEAPONS CHARGE, RESISTING LAW ENFORCEMENT, RECKLESS DRIVING | Michael Jordan, 30, Gary

1 hour ago
Hebron takes action to prevent the obvious

HEBRON | It seemed like a fairly obvious precaution, but the Hebron Town Council had a good reason for amending its building demolition ordinance Tuesday.

The change reads: The work of demolishing any building or structure shall not be commenced until the owner or agent thereof shall have demonstrated to the satisfaction of the building commissioner that all necessary precautions have been taken to protect life, limb and property, and an improvement location permit has been issued.

Town officials said the change was the result of an incident involving the demolition of a building at the corner of Sigler and Main Streets as part of the widening and reconstruction of Main by the Indiana Department of Transportation, which was completed five years ago.

As part of that project, a historic building at the intersection had to be demolished. Before it could be torn down, the town had to properly document it for the state's historic preservation records in order to get a permit. On the day the building was to be razed, a town official received a call from the preservation office saying the demolition had to be held up.

Almost simultaneously there was a loud crash and the official went outside to see the exterior wall had been knocked down by the contractor. The official used his cellphone to take a picture of the situation and send it to the state to show the request had come too late. The demolition also created a problem.

When the wall fell, it took out the electrical and cable TV lines and caused minor damage to a nearby car. It also apparently took out the historic preservation office's interest because it hasn't called back.

1 hour ago
Police: Driver in fatal accident crossed center line

A 68-year-old LaPorte man was killed Tuesday on U.S. 421 in a head-on collision apparently caused by the other driver, who had his three school aged daughters riding with him.

LaPorte County police on Wednesday said Phillip Allender, 37 of Westville, was seen by witnesses, including an off-duty paramedic, veering over the center line prior to impact near Otis.

LaPorte County police Executive Capt. Heath Haferkamp said criminal charges are a possibility depending on the outcome of the investigation.

Robert Reed, 68, was pronounced dead at the scene from massive internal injuries.

Police said a man traveling behind Allender at approximately 7:30 a.m. saw him with his head down and to the side appearing distracted.

Fearing he would hit someone, the man slowed down to create some distance between himself and the Ford Explorer driven by Allender.

A few seconds later is when the head-on collision with the victim's northbound Chevy Monte Carlo occurred on a curvy stretch of the two-lane highway, said police.

The off-duty paramedic, who also spotted Allender drifting over the center line, tended to the injured parties until first responders arrived, police said.

Allender and his daughters, ages 14, 12 and 8, were taken away by ambulance.

All of the girls complained of head pain while Allender sustained llision on U.S. 421 near Otisabrasions, police said.

Their injuries were described as non-life threatening.

LaPorte County Coroner John Sullivan said Allender was taking his daughters to school.

Allender told investigators he had no recollection of the accident so why he might have had his head down were among the questions still under investigation.

"He could have been asleep. He could have just looked down. That's just one person's perception of what happened," said LaPorte County police Maj. John Boyd.

So far, there were no indications of any use of a cell phone, said Boyd.

"There are a hundred different distractions nowadays. That's why it's so important to keep two hands on the wheel and two eyes on the road," said Sullivan.

1 hour ago
Crossroads Chamber rocks the region with membership drive
Crossroads Chamber rocks the region with membership drive

MERRILLVILLE | From business strategies to community awareness campaigns to investing in the future if education, the Crossroads Chamber of Commerce has prided itself on making a difference in the region.

On Wednesday, Crossroads kicked off its Rock The Region Membership Drive in hopes of becoming the largest chamber in the region.

"We are rocking the region," said president Sue Reed. "We have hired Membership 180 from North Carolina to help us bring in over 100 new members. We represent over 630 members currently and are very fortunate to have our members help us to increase that total."

Crossroads Chamber recently moved to its new offices at 9101 Taft St. in Merrillville and has been active in the community with various events focused on business leadership and community support initiatives.

Clad in their rock-themed Blues Brothers attire, Neil Diamond tribute artist Joe Zirconia and Impact Solutions business development manager Joe Moreno made calls to potential members all morning and even performed the hit "Sweet Home, Chicago" as a rally cry for those that took part in Wednesday's morning session."

"We're just having some fun with this," Moreno said. "This is a great chamber, and we are just doing our part to help with the recruitment effort."

The membership drive will continue through 4 p.m. Friday. For more information or to join the Crossroads Chamber of Commerce, contact membership director Tristen Comegys at (219) 769-8180.

2 hours ago Photos

Photos

AG accuses abortion docs of paperwork errors

INDIANAPOLIS | The medical license of Dr. Ulrich Klopfer, a former Gary abortion provider, could be revoked after Attorney General Greg Zoeller filed a 1,833-count compliant against him Wednesday with the Indiana Medical Licensing Board.

The Republican alleges Klopfer repeatedly failed to submit timely or complete terminated pregnancy reports as required by state law. Zoeller also filed similar complaints Wednesday against three Indianapolis abortion doctors.

Separately, Klopfer faces misdemeanor charges in Lake and St. Joseph counties for not contacting the Department of Child Services and state health department within three days after performing abortions on 13-year-old girls.

"The pending criminal charges brought by county prosecutors along with the sheer volume of unexplained violations by this licenseholder merits review by the Medical Licensing Board to determine whether disciplinary action is warranted for the noncompliance," Zoeller said.

A licensing board hearing on the alleged violations has not been set.

Klopfer, of Crete, Ill., was forced to halt his Gary abortion practice in July under a new Indiana law requiring he provide proof of hospital admitting privileges.

2 hours ago
Two men indicted in Harvey police standoff

MARKHAM | Two men learned Wednesday they have been indicted on various criminal charges for a two-day standoff with police in Harvey.

David Jordan, of Dixmoor, who turns 41 on Sunday, and Peter Williams, 41, of Chicago, appeared in 6th District Cook County court where they learned of the indictment, according to the county court clerk's office. The men are both charged with multiple counts of attempted murder of a police officer, home invasion, aggravated kidnapping and aggravated criminal sexual assault with a firearm.

Both men are scheduled to appear in court again for arraignment on Sept. 30, the court clerk's office said.

The two men allegedly forced their way into a house in the 14700 block of Seeley Avenue in Harvey, and held six people hostage. The situation ended after about 20 hours when police forced their way into the house.

Jordan was still on parole for a 1990 criminal case at the time of the incident, and the Illinois Department of Corrections is holding him at the Stateville Correctional Center near Joliet while charges are pending. Williams is being held at the Cook County Jail.

2 hours ago
Gary schools announces improved grades
Gary schools announces improved grades

GARY | While Gary schools Superintendent Cheryl Pruitt maintains she does not like the way the state of Indiana grades schools, she released preliminary grades Wednesday showing several schools improved.

Pruitt released school grades showing the district received three As, a B, two Cs, a D and six Fs. Last year, 10 schools earned an F, two schools earned an A and only one school earned a C.

Williams Elementary School is this year's standout going to an A from an F in 2014. Banneker Achievement Center and Frankie McCullough Academy for Girls maintained their A ranking. The Glen Park Academy dropped to a D from a C. Watson Academy for Boys improved to a C from an F. Bailly Preparatory Academy improved to a B from a D.

Williams Principal Jacqueline Bowman said the school focused on the areas they were weak in and improved professional development to improve the scores. The school has 502 students in grades K-through-six, about 25 students more than last year. In May, the superintendent presented Bowman with a plaque for the school's making exceptional gains on the IREAD-3 exam, which tests third-graders on their reading skills.

Although Gary released its school grades, the Indiana Department of Education has not officially released grades for schools across the state.

Pruitt said she appreciates the need for accountability, but she said she takes IDOE's grading system with "a grain of salt."

"When I compare the data from 2013 to 2014, the district went from 19 to 50 percent of our schools passing,” she said. "I'm pleased but not satisfied with the district’s overall growth, because I believe the students will continue to excel."

Pruitt commended the GCSC teamwork efforts – dedicated teachers, administrators, staff, students, parents, as well as community stakeholders and partners. “We’re on the pathway to continued success, and it’s time the community understands that,” Pruitt said.

Last week, Pruitt estimated student enrollment had dropped by about 500 students. However, Pruitt said Wednesday the drop is in excess of 1,000 students.

Pruitt said student enrollment is 7,327 students, down 1,267 students from last year when the enrollment was 8,594 students. She said some people have moved out of the city, and others have gone to public charter schools or used the state voucher to attend a private school.

"I can't tell you where the students are located right at this moment. We have to go through the system and analyze where those students have gone," she said.

2 hours ago Photos

Photos

Emanuel wants no more signs as large as Trump's
Emanuel wants no more signs as large as Trump's

CHICAGO | Chicago will always have the TRUMP sign on one of its tallest buildings to remind everyone in big, bold letters how Mayor Rahm Emanuel got trumped by The Donald, but now the mayor is proposing an ordinance to make sure nobody else can do the same.

In the latest chapter of what turned into an international news story about the war of words between Emanuel and the brash billionaire developer over what the mayor called a "tasteless" sign, his office on Wednesday released a draft of an ordinance that would limit the size of signs and what they look like.

The ordinance, scheduled to be introduced to the City Council next month, is hardly a surprise. In June, when it was becoming clear that nothing could be done legally to force Trump to remove the sign the mayor's administration had signed off on, Emanuel promised to make sure the same thing never happened again.

But the ordinance, in dramatically limiting the size and placement of signs, assures that the sign — more than five times as big as what the ordinance would allow — will continue to stand out.

Under its provisions, the downtown area along the Chicago River would have similar protections that now prevent garish signs associated with cities such as Las Vegas from cropping up along iconic Michigan Avenue. It calls for the largest buildings to have signs no bigger than 550 square feet and would prohibit flashing signs, rooftop signs and most neon signs.

2 hours ago
Four teens charged in killing at River Oaks Mall

CALUMET CITY | Authorities have charged an 18-year-old and two 17-year-olds with murder and attempted robbery in the Saturday killing of a South Holland teen at the River Oaks Center, police said.

Charged with murder and attempted robbery are Dana Hayes, 18, of Sauk Village, and two 17-year-old males, both of South Holland, officials said.

One of the 17-year-olds was the actual shooter, police said.

Calumet City Police Chief Ed Gilmore said the 17-year-olds are charged as adults but he is not releasing their names at this time.

Also charged is Martreli Smith, 18, of South Holland, with obstruction of justice and aiding a fugitive. Police said charges are pending against a man who is in custody and they are seeking another man in connection with the crime.

Police said Ike King, 18, of South Holland, was targeted for a robbery by the six suspects while he was at a South Holland McDonald's on Saturday and that shoppers at the mall were never in jeopardy. The suspects saw that King had about $300 on him and decided to rob him at their first opportunity, police said.

Around 3:30 p.m., King and a companion were picked up by car and driven to the area of River Oaks Drive and Torrence Avenue, followed by the six suspects in a Jeep. Shortly after being dropped off, King and his companion walked towards the River Oaks Center east of the J.C. Penney store and were accosted by three of the six suspects, who were on foot, police said.

King and his friend fought the suspects, who were then joined by two more offenders. King and his friend tried to flee the fight and ran to an east entrance of the mall followed closely by five of the suspects while one suspect remained as the driver of the getaway car, police said.

King and his friend tried to enter the mall by the vacant Sears store, the suspects chased them and fired several shots, striking King in the back.

All the suspects fled in a Jeep that was later identified via surveillance video in the area, police said.

King was transported to Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, where he was pronounced dead at 7:09 p.m., according to the Cook County  medical examiner's office.

The case was investigated by the Calumet City Police Department in conjunction with the South Suburban Major Crimes Task Force. Anyone with information about the case is asked to call Calumet City police at (708) 868-2500.

2 hours ago
Zoeller warns of IRS telephone scam

INDIANAPOLIS | Attorney General Greg Zoeller is warning Hoosiers to be on guard following a recent uptick in scam phone calls from fraudsters claiming to work for the Internal Revenue Service and demanding an immediate tax payment.

Zoeller said his consumer complaint office has received more than 200 reports of this type of fraudulent call, many in just the past few days.

In a typical scenario, a caller claiming to represent the IRS or U.S. Treasury tells the person answering the phone that he or she owes taxes, which are due immediately, and if not paid an arrest warrant will be issued.

The caller then tells the person to deposit the "owed" taxes on a prepaid debit card and provide the card number to the caller.

Nationwide, more than $5 million has been lost to this scam. At least one Northwest Indiana resident was duped into paying $400.

Zoeller said scammers have been known to recite the last four digits of a victim's Social Security number. They sometimes use caller ID to spoof an actual IRS telephone number to make their call appear legitimate.

He advised that the IRS never initiates contact over the phone; it always first sends official correspondence by mail. In addition, the IRS never will ask for credit, debit or prepaid card information over the phone, he said.

Hoosiers receiving this type of call can contact the IRS at (800) 829-1040 to confirm it is fraudulent.

The scam also can be reported to the attorney general at (888) 834-9969 or online at indianaconsumer.com.

2 hours ago
Judge, attorneys take in juror experiences
Judge, attorneys take in juror experiences

EAST CHICAGO | Six former jurors shared thoughts on their experiences in the criminal court system during a Constitution Day program in the East Chicago court building.

The Wednesday event was co-hosted by the Women Lawyers Association “to better understand what jurors think about the process,” association president Melissa Cohen said.

As part of the program, the past jurors shared their trial and tribulations with about 75 attorneys gathered in the courtroom of Lake Superior Court Judge Calvin Hawkins.

“We don’t know what’s happening in (the jury room),” Cohen noted. “Today, that veil is going to be dropped.”

Hawkins led a discussion on a range of topics focusing on the jurors’ perspectives of the trial process.

Panelist Gregory Rodriguez, of East Chicago, said he served as jury foreman on a trial for which the defendant was found guilty on two charges and not guilty on two others. He said jury members entered their deliberations with different ideas about whether the case had been proven by the prosecution.

“I could tell right away there was a divide,” he said.

Rodriguez said the jury had issues with the way police handled the incident, and some jurors came in pro-defendant and others pro-law enforcement.

“Either we’re going to be there for months … or we had to come to some understanding,” Rodriguez said.

He said it took the jury about six hours to arrive at its verdict. Jurors backgrounds and life experiences impact their approach, he said, and some jurors can be “very, very stubborn.”

Hawkins wondered about what jurors might conclude when defendants choose not to testify.

Former juror Jamie Gill, of St. John, said the defendant in her case chose not to testify.

“I was disappointed about that,” she said.

Gill said she would have liked to have heard his perspective.

“When you find someone guilty, you’re affecting them for the rest of their lives,” Rodriguez said.

2 hours ago Photos

Photos

Man sentenced to probation in stabbing
Man sentenced to probation in stabbing

CROWN POINT | A Gary man was sentenced to 6 years probation after he admitted to stabbing his wife who wanted to separate from him, according to court records. 

Jerry Wilson, 58, was sentenced Wednesday in Lake County Criminal Court. He pleaded guilty in August to confinement, a Class B felony. The Lake County prosecutor's office agreed to dismiss charges of attempted murder, aggravated battery and battery as part of the agreement. 

According to court records, on June 29, 2012 Wilson stabbed his wife in the abdomen with a large kitchen butcher knife after she told him she wanted a separation.

Wilson also bit, choked and slammed the woman to the floor, according to court records. The woman threw a vase at Wilson and was able to pull the knife out of her abdomen. 

According to court records, the woman was eventually able to escape their Gary home by jumping out of a window she had shattered using a lamp. 

She was treated at Methodist Hospitals Northlake Campus in Gary for her injuries. 

2 hours ago
Donnelly wants military suicide prevention plan OK'd
Donnelly wants military suicide prevention plan OK'd

INDIANAPOLIS | U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., expressed frustration Wednesday his legislation aimed at preventing military suicides likely won't get a final vote until after Election Day.

"There is no reason why this bipartisan legislation should not be passed, and passed quickly," Donnelly said. "We need to get this legislation signed into law."

Donnelly's proposal, dubbed the Jacob Sexton Military Suicide Prevention Act for a Hoosier soldier who took his own life in 2009, would require annual, confidential, face-to-face mental health assessments for all active duty, reserve and National Guard service members.

Only deploying or returning service members currently receive that level of mental health screening, even though most military suicides involve troops who never deploy, Donnelly said.

A Pentagon report released this month found that between January and March, 120 service members took their own lives -- 74 on active duty, 24 in the reserves and 22 in the National Guard.

At that rate, military suicides this year will exceed the 475 recorded in 2013. In 2012, 522 service members took their own lives.

In both years, more members of the military killed themselves than died in combat in Afghanistan.

Speaking in the U.S. Senate chamber, Donnelly said the recent suicide of actor Robin Williams is an important reminder that often we do not know when people around us are living lives of unbearable pain. September is National Suicide Prevention Month.

"Even the strongest among us sometimes need a helping hand, including the brave men and women in uniform who protect our country each and every day," Donnelly said.

The Senate is expected to recess later this week and not return until mid-November, after the Nov. 4 elections.

Donnelly's proposal is included in the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act, typically considered "must pass" legislation since it funds the U.S. military.

3 hours ago Video
Two politicians cannot pass school board re-exam

CROWN POINT | Lake elections officials have again denied two men the chance to run for this fall's school board elections.

Michelle Fajman, county elections director, and Pat Gabrione, the top Republican on the elections staff, said Antonio Daggett Sr. of Hammond and Robert L. Buggs Sr. of Gary failed to gather enough signatures to qualify for a ballot position in the Nov. 4 general election.

Daggett, who wants to run for the Hammond school board and Buggs, who wants to run for the Gary school board, said they are contesting signatures that election officials invalided under a state law requiring registered voters to endorse the candidates on a written petition.

Buggs said Wednesday afternoon he may sue.

Daggett needed 200 signatures to get on the ballot, collected 252, but came up 28 short after 80 were disallowed.

Buggs needed 100 signatures, collected 137, but came up 19 short when officials rejected 56 signatures.

Election officials said the contested signatures were invalid because the persons couldn't be found on the voter rolls or no longer lived at the addresses they provided to voter registration officials earlier.

Buggs argued elections officials were mistaken because the persons either were registered voters and living at the same address or still lived elsewhere in the City of Gary, in some cases only a few doors down the same street.

Fajman and Gabrione said a team of two staff members and an elections board attorney re-examine the contested signatures and agreed to count an additional five for both men, but that still left them short of the necessary total.

3 hours ago