ST. JOHN, Ind. — Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. had harsh words for a St. John police officer who opened fire on a vehicle that was being driven by an off-duty Hammond cop.
According to the St. John Police Department, the shooting occurred early Tuesday morning at approximately 2:30 a.m. at the intersection of W. 93rd Avenue and Cline Avenue in St. John, a Lake County town located south of Schererville.
St. John police said an on-duty officer was checking on an unoccupied suspicious vehicle when another vehicle drove past him, allegedly “nearly striking” the officer. The officer opened fire on the passing vehicle, firing several shots as the vehicle continued to drive away from the scene.
Mayor McDermott revealed that the vehicle that was fired upon was driven by an off-duty Hammond police officer who had been in his personal vehicle and was headed to his residence in St. John. The off-duty officer wasn’t injured, but his vehicle was damaged by the gunfire including a bullet hole in his passenger side door.
“Police officers, like the St. John officer who decided to use deadly force in this case, are a danger to society and don’t deserve to wear the badge of #Hoosier Law Enforcement,” McDermott wrote in a fiery social media post on Tuesday.
Accounts of the shooting differed between the two authorities and with many aspects of the incident remaining unclear.
St. John Police Chief Steven Flores originally released a press release at 9:20 a.m. on Tuesday which, on top of not mentioning the incident involved two officers, claimed the St. John officer was “fearing for his life” when he opened fire on the off-duty Hammond cop.
Flores said the officer had been standing on the shoulder with a flashlight in hand when he “observed a vehicle traveling toward him nearly striking him” and opened fire on the vehicle.
The St. John officer caught up to the vehicle after opening fire on it and ended up taking the Hammond officer into custody.
Hammond Mayor McDermott criticized the officer’s use of deadly force, stating that the off-duty cop, “maintains he did nothing wrong, and maneuvered his vehicle to the other side of the road to give space to an ongoing traffic stop. Suddenly, the Hammond officer’s personal vehicle was fired upon multiple times by the St. John Police Officer, who decided that ‘deadly force’ was necessary in this situation.”
McDermott posted his retort two hours after Flores posted the press release on St. John Police Department’s Facebook page. Flores responded several hours later by posting another press release, after McDermott revealed an off-duty officer was in the vehicle that was fired upon, offering “thoughts and prayers” to “all parties involved.”
Flores also stated the department wouldn’t be releasing any further information about the shooting and that the Lake County Sheriff’s Department has been contacted to investigate the shooting.
Details were not given if the St. John officer decided to use deadly force and fire upon the vehicle after it had already passed by him or when it was still driving toward him.
Many in the comments of the posts criticized the lack of transparency in the investigation and the discrepancies of each account while some stated St. John police only offered “thoughts and prayers” after learning the driver of the vehicle was also a cop.
The Hammond Police Department and the Lake County Sheriff’s Department have not responded to requests for further information on the incident.
Flores said the St. John officer was placed on paid administrative leave until the investigation is concluded.