Candidate for Gary council seat accused of threatening pastor
GARY — The Rev. Norman Hairston Jr. was sitting on his porch Monday evening waiting for his wife to come home when a Ford Crown Victoria parked on the street in front of him.
Hairston asked the driver to please move enough to leave space for his wife’s car.
It was all downhill from there.
Hairston filed a police report later Monday, accusing Herb Smith, 55, of intimidation. He said Smith threatened to arrest him and had his hand on his holstered weapon during the altercation. Hairston said the argument took place while both men were on the pastor’s porch in the 1100 block of Connecticut Street, where his church is also located.
Smith denied making any threats and said he never touched his weapon. “I’m not that stupid,” Smith said Wednesday afternoon. “The whole thing took a minute.”
Lake County Sheriff John Buncich told the Post-Tribune detectives are investigating the incident, in part because Smith was wearing items that identified himself as a police officer.
“He had some kind of police garb on. I don’t know where he got it,” Buncich said. “He is not a Lake County reserve officer.”
Nor is Smith, owner of ICU Court Monitoring in Merrillville, a Gary reserve.
Smith said he was wearing a bulletproof vest that carries his company name on the front and back.
“I have the report, but I don’t know what action I will take until I get all the details,” Buncich said. “Of course, Hairston could also file charges.”
Smith, a former bail bondsmen who holds a contract with Lake County providing the electronic gear and tracking for defendants on house arrest, is a candidate for the Gary Common Council seat vacated by Marilyn Krusas. Krusas pleaded guilty last month in federal court of failing to pay income tax.
Smith said he and his son were on Connecticut Street to pick up a client who was not abiding by requirements of his detention. “It was the only parking spot,” Smith said. “He didn’t ask me to move, he told me I couldn’t park there,” Smith said. He accused Hairston of cursing at him and also saying, “Don’t you know who I am?”
“I don’t even know him,” Smith said.
Buncich said Smith has “very limited” law enforcement powers in connection with business. “Sometimes he has to detain an individual who has violated provisions of his house arrest,” the sheriff said.
Hairston is pastor of Zion Progressive Church. He served on Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson’s New Day campaign in 2011 and also supported Smith in a prior election. Smith said he was unaware of Hairston’s support.
Smith was arrested in 2005 because of an altercation involving weapons at his Miller home. He confronted a man who was repossessing Smith’s SUV.
The First District Democratic Precinct Committee will hold a caucus at 9 a.m. Saturday at Marquette Park Pavilion to select a new council member. Candidates are Smith, former council member Mildred Shannon and former city attorney Rebecca Wyatt.