KENDALLVILLE, Ind. (WANE) — One person was killed and two others were hurt in what police have categorized as a random shooting at a Kendallville gas station.
Just before midnight on Sunday, Kendallville and Noble County police responded to a reported shooting at the Gallops gas station on the 1200 block of North Street. A caller notified police of multiple people shot and that there was one shooter.
Two victims were transported to an area hospital and are in critical, yet stable condition. One man – 32-year-old Justin M. Smead – was pronounced dead at the scene.
The Noble County Coroner’s Office has not yet determined the official cause of Smead’s death. Smead’s family released this statement:
“Our family is deeply saddened by the loss of our son / brother Justin. Justin loved family and working on cars. Justin had a big personality and always had a smile. Justin will be deeply miss. Please keep our family in your prayers.”
The other victims have not been named.
According to Kendallville Police Chief Lance Waters, investigators believe this was a random act of violence and the suspect did not know his victims. He added that it’s still early in the investigation, but evidence shows the victims were customers.
Police are searching for 24-year-old Matthew Rodriguez as a suspect in the violence. Rodriguez is described as:
- 5-feet, 8-inches tall weighing 225 pounds
- Black hair, brown eyes
Rodriguez should be considered armed and dangerous. He is reported to be driving a red, 2010 Kia Forte, with Indiana license plate AYW713.
“We are using all means to locate him,” Chief Waters said. “Bulletins have been put out, not just surrounding counties but also the surrounding states, because we don’t know where he is. We are using everything that we can. We have contacted satellite services, we’ve sent out messages to area agencies, state agencies, even … traffic cameras, license plate cameras, things like that. We have tapped into that information as well.”
Chief Waters told WANE 15’s Briana Brownlee that this is the first homicide for the area since 2007. He said that it doesn’t appear that Rodriguez has ties to any other areas, and all of his family live in the Kendallville community.
Makiah Lato said she has known Rodriguez for years because he was friends with her brother. When she heard about the news, she said she was in complete shock.
“Nobody ever thought he would do something like this,” said Lato. “It’s shocking and I feel bad and I pray for the families that were affected and the guy who lost his life for no reason. We assumed that it was a robbery, but to find out it was just because…I don’t know what is going through his heart to do something like this.”
Chief Waters stressed that if anyone sees Rodriguez, do not approach because he is considered armed and dangerous. If anyone has any information on the whereabouts of Rodriguez, they should contact police immediately at (260) 347-0654 or 911.