By Chris Tye and Jermont Terry
GARY, Ind. (SCS) — A Gary, Indiana police officer was rushed to hospital on Monday afternoon after being shot while responding to a report of gunfire.
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Gary Police Chief Brian Evans said shortly before 1 p.m. officers were at 1500 W. 5th Ave. dealing with parking violations, when an officer called to report an active shooter situation ahead of him at this place.
Shortly after, Sgt. William Fazekas, a 32-year veteran of the force, was nearby when he saw a vehicle hit another vehicle. Fazekas activated his car’s hazard lights, when people inside the vehicles opened fire, shooting him in the left shoulder.
Locals called it a shooting.
“We heard a barrage of gunfire,” said Michael Eugene.
“A lot of shots go off,” Hakeem Burns said.
Officers were able to arrest one suspect, according to Evans, but a second “person of interest” remained at large Monday afternoon, and an active search was underway late Monday evening.
“We know there was a person in the other vehicle at the time,” Gary Police Chief Brian Evans said at a Monday afternoon news conference. “The actual parts of the investigation will be clarified as we investigate further. It is still an active investigation.
Fazekas returned fire after being shot, but Evans said it was unclear if he had shot anyone. The suspect who is in custody was not injured.
Sheriff’s officials in Lake County, Indiana were helping to search for the second suspect, providing assistance from their aviation, special operations and patrol units. Evans said he believed the suspect still at large was somewhere within a 10 to 20 block radius of 5th Avenue and Lincoln Street.
The area has many abandoned houses, which can complicate the search.
As CBS 2’s Jermont Terry reported, Gary police still had 5th Avenue near Lincoln Street blocked off late Monday night after collecting all the evidence of the shooting.
Meanwhile, students were released early from a nearby school and some of them were even taken home by the police due to the dangerous situation.
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“We looked out the door, we saw an exchange of gunfire between the officers – and they were trying to apprehend the subjects,” Eugene said.
Eugene works security at a business less than a block away. He said the gunshots were so loud they initially thought it was in their parking lot.
“My thing; my goal was to keep everyone in the store and make sure the police could do their job,” he said.
Fazekas is currently assigned as an investigator with the Violent Crimes Division and joined the force in December 1989, Evans said.
He was stabilized after being transported to a local hospital and then transferred to the University of Chicago Medical Center for further treatment. Evans said the officer was in good spirits.
CBS 2 was notified that Fazekas was able to speak Monday night.
In 1996, CBS 2 interviewed then-Detective Fazekas about an investigation in which a 13-year-old boy was accused of shooting and killing his mother after a quarrel over poor grades.
Gary Mayor Jerome Prince visited the officer in hospital on Monday afternoon and said he was awake and talking, and “appeared to be doing as well as expected in this particular situation.”
People want the remaining suspect arrested, especially if he had the audacity to shoot an officer.
“Hopefully they catch the guy,” Burns said.
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“It’s a shameless act,” Eugene added, “a blatant disregard for law enforcement and life itself, period.”