Mayor: ‘Fairly confident’ suspect is cop killer
By Michelle L. Quinn Post-Tribune correspondent July 8, 2014 12:28PM
Indiana Governor Mike Pence and First Lady Karen Pence arrive at the Gary Police Department passing a patrol car covered with flowers and American flags in Gary on July 8, 2014. | Jim Karczewski/For Sun-Times Media
Funeral services set
The funeral for the Gary police officer gunned down Sunday tentatively is set for Monday at the Genesis Center.
The service for Patrolman Jeffrey Westerfield is planned to start at 11 a.m., according to Kuiper Funeral Home in Highland, which is handling arrangements.
He will be buried at Chapel Lawn Cemetery, 8178 Cline Ave., Schererville.
Westerfield’s visitation will take place from 2 to 8 p.m. Sunday, also at the Genesis Center.
Westerfield was found dead early Sunday after a passer-by noticed him sitting unresponsive in his squad car at the intersection of Van Buren Place and 26th Avenue.
Mourners will have at least one other chance to pay their respects. A group called the Unforgotten Souls is organizing a motorcycle ride by the Gary Police Department in order for all riders to lay down roses in memoriam to Westerfield. Bike riders are scheduled to meet at 3 p.m. Wednesday at the Best Western Hotel in Portage at 6200 Melton Road. They will then ride together to the police department, 555 Polk St., Gary, where each rider will leave a rose, according to a Facebook posting.
The group also will take donations for the family before leaving Portage.
Updated: August 10, 2014 6:24AM
GARY — Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson said police are “fairly confident” the man they have in custody is the one who shot and killed officer Jeffrey Westerfield early Sunday morning.
With Indiana Gov. Mike Pence and First Lady Karen Pence by her side, Freeman-Wilson said during a Tuesday afternoon news conference that the man, who would have been released today from a 48-hour hold, is continuing to be held on a previous warrant for failure to appear on a probation violation. He was taken into custody several hours after the shooting. He has not been charged.
Two other men taken into custody Sunday, meanwhile, were released Monday, Freeman-Wilson said, though officials aren’t ruling out the possibility that others were involved in the shooting of the 19-year veteran police officer.
Westerfield, who turned 47 on Sunday, was following up an earlier Sunday morning domestic call that resulted in gunshots being fired. The man in custody, she said, was involved in that incident but no one was hurt.
“What we really want is to have everything buttoned down before (charges are filed),” she said.
The Pences came to Gary to visit with Westerfield’s family — including his fiancee, Denise Sheaks-Cather and Westerfield’s daughters, to offer their sympathies and pledge ongoing support to the department.
“I feel very humbled and privileged to have the opportunity to meet with the family of an Indiana hero,” Pence said during the news conference. “We are grateful for the opportunity to express our deepest sympathies.”
Pence called Westerfield’s death part of “a week of heartbreak” and that it’s very clear to him as well as people well outside the state that Westerfield was a “man of integrity” and a “beloved figure” in the community.
“We’re here to simply assure them that he will be remembered for his service and his sacrifice. His service and sacrifice will never be forgotten,” he said. “There is a deep sense of loss for this community, and we are redoubling our commitment and gratitude to the men and women in uniform of this state.”
Pence ordered flags to be lowered across the state this week and declared an official period of mourning after the loss of three law enforcement officers in the line of duty over eight days.
In addition to Westerfield, 31-year-old Tipton County Deputy Jacob Calvin of Kempton died June 28 when his car crashed while he was responding to an automobile accident and 51-year-old Indianapolis Police Officer Perry Renn died in a gunfight Saturday.
Gary Police Chief Wade Ingram Sr. said his officers are “grief-stricken” and concerned about their safety going forward. The department will be swearing in 15 new officers next month, and Ingram is looking into pairing the officers together on night and overnight shifts.
The department has also taken several officers off special detail and increased street patrols for the foreseeable future.
“With the new officers, we will have hired 25 officers since November to keep up with the rate of attrition,” Ingram said.
Freeman-Wilson added that Pence authorized the Indiana State Police to offer technical assistance to the Gary Police Department and they were involved in the investigation Sunday. The U.S. Department of Justice also will deliver its recommendations for stabilizing the city to the department later this month.