A 25-year-old Portage, Indiana, man was charged Thursday in connection with the shooting death of a Gary police officer killed while on-duty on his birthday.
Carl Blount was taken into custody July 6, but not charged until Thursday. He was being held in Lake County Jail in Crown Point on warrants out of Porter County.
Officer Jeff Westerfield, 47, was shot and killed while responding to a call of shots fired a few miles south of downtown Gary, officials said. A citizen discovered him unresponsive in a parked squad car hours later.
“I am pleased that the suspect has been charged, and I hope this brings a certain amount of relief to the family and the men and women of the Gary Police Department,” said Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson. “However, we are still mourning the loss of one of our own and expect that Blount and anyone else involved be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
Westerfield was a 19-year veteran of the police force with four daughters and a fiancée. He planned to retire next August, family members said.
“They took my world away,” Westerfield's fiancée Denise Cather said. “They took my best man away. … They just took him.”
Three people initially were taken into custody for questioning as officials followed up on several leads.
One was described as a "person of interest," but no charges were filed.
Last week more than 1,000 members of law enforcement gathered in downtown Gary to honor Westerfield. Per tradition, officers wore a white carnation upside down and stained with a red dot in honor of a fallen comrade.
"We are always saddened when we lose one of our brothers or sisters in law enforcement," Joe Hamer, chairman of the Indiana State Fraternal Order of Police, said. "We always have that plan of going home to our families. Unfortunately in cases like Jeff, someone took his life too soon."
In a somber show of respect, police vehicles from as far away as Ohio formed a funeral procession to the cemetery where Westerfield was laid to rest.
There were so many of them that it took more than half an hour for them to leave the convention center, a lasting memory of an officer who will not be forgotten.
"Dad was something special," Westerfield's daughter, Allie, said. "He loved his motorcycle. I can't tell you how many times he would take me and we would just drive around, not really looking for anything, just driving."