By Adam Sege
GARY, Ind. — One of three people arrested soon after the slaying of a Gary police officer has been charged in the officer's death, authorities said.
Carl Le'Ellis Blount, 25, of Gary, was arrested the same day Officer Jeffrey Westerfield was killed as he sat in his patrol car July 6, and held on a probation violation until he appeared in court today, according to prosecutors and court records. Early on July 6, Westerfield had been seeking Blount in connection with a fight involving his ex-girlfriend in which the two had struggled over a gun, which went off and Blount ran away, prosecutors said today.
Westerfield, 47, was found by a motorist, slumped in his car near 26th and Van Buren streets about 5:45 a.m., Police Chief Wade Ingram said after the shooting. Westerfield was pronounced dead at 6:36 a.m., according to the Lake County coroner's office.
Westerfield's oldest daughter, Allie Westerfield, 20, attended a news conference by authorities in Crown Point, Ind., today, and said that "it does make me feel a little bit better, that these people have put in so much effort for us, to put this man behind bars, and if he stays there, he won't be able to hurt anyone else, with his senseless violence."
"I wish my day was still here, obviously, but knowing that he died protecting the people that he loved, the people of the city, makes me extremely proud to be his daughter," said Allie Westerfield, who has three younger sisters.
Earlier on the morning of the shooting, Blount got into a dispute with a woman described in the affidavit as both his ex-girlfriend and his girlfriend. Blount argued with the woman as they were leaving a late-night club and pulled up his shirt to reveal a black handgun, according to an affidavit filed when Blount was charged. A struggle ensued, and the handgun discharged, according to the affidavit.
Blount, who may have been struck in the leg, ran off with the gun, according to the affidavit.
Westerfield, who had been on the force for 19 years, was one of several police officers who responded to the dispute between Blount and his girlfriend, according to the affidavit. Shortly afterward, the officer left to search for Blount, asking for his description over a police radio frequency at 4:15 a.m.
At 5:49 a.m., a resident called police to report that a Gary Police Department squad car had been idling for about an hour on 26th Avenue east of Van Buren Place. When officers arrived, they found Westerfield inside and unresponsive.
Westerfield was found in the driver's seat of his patrol car and shell casings were recovered from the scene, officials said. Someone called police after coming upon Westerfield's police car, stopped and with Westerfield unresponsive inside, police said at the time.
The officer's squad car was still running, his spotlight was still on and his radio transmitter was still unhooked when he was found, Lake County Sheriff John Buncich said today in a news conference.
Police spoke to witnesses who were able to tell them where Blount might be, and he was arrested. Following his arrest, investigators were able to track him to near the officer's car, Buncich said today.
"Through videotape and surveillance tape of different businesses, we were able to track his whereabouts up to where the officer was found," Buncich said.
After he was arrested, investigators showed Blount a still photograph from one of the surveillance tapes, and Blount said "is that something in my hand?" according to the affidavit.
Police also were able to obtain cell phone records and talk to a witness who had spoken to Blount after the shooting. Blount talked to the witness about hiding from police, being imprisoned "for a long time on this one," and taking apart a gun and hiding the pieces, according to the affidavit.
Investigators, with the help of the ATF, have been able to determine the exact gun that they believe was used in the killing, a .40-caliber handgun that had been stolen in the Indianapolis area and given to Blount by his half-brother, according to the affidavit. But police have not yet been able to find it, according to Buncich and the affidavit.
Although Blount has been arrested, a $10,000 reward for any information that helps to lead to his conviction, and a separate $10,000 ATF reward are still being offered, to help collect more evidence, Buncich noted. Anyone with information is asked to call Lake County's tip line at 800-750-2746.
McClatchy-Tribune News Service
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