triflin wrote:GARY — A Gary police officer shot an unarmed teenager in the head Sunday afternoon outside the youth’s cousin’s home.
Vincent Smith Jr., 16, a freshman at West Side High School, died instantly in the alley behind 2517 Wabash Ave.
Patrolman Levi Randolph “was in fear of his life” when he fired at Smith, as the teen reached into his sweat shirt pocket after ignoring repeated orders to stop running and show his hands, Chief Garnett Watson said Monday.
“He thought the gentleman was reaching for a gun, pulling a gun on him,” Watson said.
Although the teen had some unsavory friends, “he would not challenge a police officer. I don’t think he’s ever touched a gun,” his father, Vincent Smith Sr., said from the family’s Tolleston home Monday afternoon.
Smith did not have a gun when he was killed, investigators learned later. The only shots came from Randolph’s .40-caliber duty weapon. One shot struck Smith in the head, entering under his left ear and exiting above his right eye, Lake County Coroner David Pastrick said.
“That’s cold-blooded murder,” the elder Smith said upon learning the bullet’s path. “Even if it was a burglary, he was still killed for no reason.”
His son loved basketball and dreamed of playing in the NBA, Smith Sr. said.
Smith’s mother abandoned him when he was 2 months old.
His father, aunt and grandmother raised him in the home where relatives gathered Monday to mourn his death.
“I gave him everything. He wasn’t hurting for anything,” his father said.
Randolph, a Gary resident who became a sworn officer in August 2002, is on administrative leave while Lake County police Sgt. Patrick Tracey investigates the fatal shooting.
Both Watson and Lake County Police Chief Gary Martin said the investigation will follow standard procedure, starting with an outside agency handling the case.
County police will interview witnesses and submit evidence to a Lake County grand jury “without any recommendation.”
The grand jury can determine if Randolph was justified in shooting the teen. If the shooting is not justified, Randolph could face criminal charges. Martin said Randolph is scheduled for an interview this morning.
“In an officer-involved shooting, we wait at least 24 hours before we have them come in,” Martin said.
Watson said Randolph will be eligible for counseling as a result of the fatal confrontation.
No date has been set for the officer’s return to work.
Randolph was called to the house on Wabash about 3:15 p.m. after someone reported a burglary in progress. The vacant house is owned by the victim’s cousin, whose father, Terrance Murphy Sr., died in a car crash last year.
Smith’s father and cousin, Keilani Jackson, said they believe Smith and his friends may have gone to the house “on a challenge.”
“When he was with his friends he was a tough guy, but at home he was just a baby,” his father said. “Maybe it was a challenge or a thrill, something these gangbangers would do.”
Jackson agreed her cousin was easily influenced by friends.
“He knew the house was empty, maybe they thought they’d get some fast money,” Smith’s father said.
The officer arrived and saw a broken window on the west side of the house and two suspects running. He ordered them to stop. One was last seen on the railroad tracks south of the house.
The other was Smith, who was just one step over the 6-foot high cyclone fence when he was shot. The coroner said Smith’s body was 2 to 3 feet from the fence.
“It is believed someone was on the railroad tracks that may have seen the incident, that person fled the area. We would definitely like to talk to that person,” Martin said.
Watson said no other witnesses have come forward with an account of the shooting.
“He’s a good officer,” Watson said of Randolph. In addition to the criminal investigation done by county police, Gary police Internal Affairs Division detectives also will review the incident to determine if Randolph violated any departmental regulations.
“Anytime we have to take somebody’s life, it’s a tragedy,” Watson said.
Sunday’s shooting marked the second time in three days a Gary officer wounded a civilian.
Patrolman Nicholas Ferrell shot a woman in the arm as she allegedly tried to strike him and two other police in the parking lot of Shaw’s Lounge early Friday.
County police investigating that incident say it appears to be justified.
Funeral services for Smith are pending at Guy and Allen Funeral home.
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