Officials say three people were in custody Sunday night after a Gary Police officer was found fatally shot inside his patrol car. The Lake County Coroners office says Jeffrey Westerfield, whose 47th birthday was yesterday, was pronounced dead at the scene at 26th Avenue and Van Buren Place in Gary shortly after 6:30 Sunday morning. Officials say someone spotted the patrol car and saw the veteran officer slumped over the wheel. Westerfield, a Desert Storm veteran and 19-year member of the Gary police force, leaves behind four daughters. More information is being released at a news conference this morning. [Photo: Gary Police Officer Jeffrey Brady Westerfield]
"We are devastated to lose a friend and colleague,” said Gary Police Chief Wade Ingram. “At this time, a person of interest is in custody and is being questioned. The person is in the custody of the Lake County police, and was brought to law enforcement's attention as a result of a domestic call. The investigation is ongoing and is being handled by a crimes task force that is overseen by Lake County Sheriff John Buncich."
"It is our expectation that updates to this investigation will be shared some time tomorrow at a press conference,” added Ingram on Sunday. “We are grateful to law enforcement at the federal, state, county and local levels who have come together in support of the Gary Police Department.”
Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson made the following statement regarding Sunday's tragedy:
"I would like to extend my condolences to Officer Westerfield's family and his colleagues of the Gary Police Department. Officer Westerfield was a 19-year department veteran and was greatly respected by his fellow officers. He served as one of the canine officers on the force, was a devoted father and engaged to be married.
Our officers lay their lives on the line every day to protect the citizens in this community. Today, Officer Westerfield paid the ultimate price, and we will not stop until the person or persons responsible for this crime are brought to justice. Additionally, every measure will be taken to make the streets safe for all citizens."
Funeral services for Officer Westerfield were pending.