One man is in serious but stable condition, and three people — including at least two juveniles — are in custody after a fight turned into a shooting at West Side Leadership Academy’s graduation Sunday evening in Gary.
A second person — a woman, 19 — was shot in the ankle during the shooting that happened just outside U.S. Steel Yard several yards away from the stadium’s entrance on the southeast side, Gary Police spokesman Cmdr. Jack Hamady said Sunday night. A third person sustained injuries in the incident and was treated at the scene by medics, according to Gary Police spokesperson Lt. Dawn Westerfield.
Graduates and guests were exiting the stadium when shot erupted outside of the stadium.
Hamady said he received a call from Gary Community School Corporation’s head of security, Cliff Caldwell, asking for assistance because a fight had broken out as people were leaving the graduation ceremonies around 5:32 p.m. Caldwell had a security team as well as Lake County Police officers working the event, Hamady said.
As Gary officers arrived, they found the male victim in the middle of Fifth Avenue with a gunshot to the chest, Hamady said. The 19-year-old man was taken to Methodist Hospital’s Northlake campus, Hamady said. At 6:14 p.m., police took one person with a handgun into custody.
Nearly 200 students were scheduled to graduate during the ceremony, which started at 4 p.m.
Hamady said four detectives were on scene; preliminary reports indicate there were no weapons in the stadium during the ceremony and that the suspects parked their cars — and their guns — across the street in the Calumet Township Assessor’s parking lot. They then left the stadium and came back with the weapons, he said.
Hamady said police were talking with the shooting victims as well as four other witnesses Sunday night. A motive has yet to be established, he said.
Hamady didn’t immediately have the suspects’ ages.
Gary Community School Corporation Manager Paige McNulty in a statement expressed dismay over the shooting Sunday night.
“A day that was meant for celebration has now been marked by tragedy through senseless acts of gun violence,” McNulty said. “During the entire graduation, our students conducted themselves in an excellent manner. Meanwhile, the disruptive actions of a few overshadowed their special moment.
“Thankfully, the offenders have been apprehended, but it doesn’t change the hurt and disappointment our students, families and school community are now feeling. Our prayers are with those injured, and we continue to extend our congratulations to WSLA graduates. They deserve it.”
Gary Mayor Jerome Prince is committed to holding to account those responsible for the shooting.
“It’s infuriating to me to hear of violence and injuries on a special night for our young people and their families. I pray for a full and speedy recovery for anyone who was injured,” Prince said. “At this point, this is an ongoing investigation, but I assure everyone our Gary Police Department and law enforcement partners will use all available resources to get to the bottom of this incident.
“We will not cede our community to people who jeopardize our residents through their senseless, violent means.”
Gary Common Councilman Ronald Brewer, D-At-Large, was on scene helping officers obtain security footage. He too expressed concern over the shooting.
“I’m concerned about what’s going to happen starting next month, when (an Indiana state law allowing permitless carry) takes effect,” Brewer said. “I’m going to be working with the council to see what we can do to ban guns on government property, because right now, with the environment we’re in, this is only going to get worse.”
Michelle L. Quinn is a freelance reporter for the Post-Tribune.