The northwest Indiana police chase that ended in a fatal crash that killed an innocent 13-year-old girl started with a report of a woman shoplifting beer, police revealed Thursday.
East Chicago Police said an officer was dispatched to a parking lot in the 4700 block of Indianapolis Boulevard for a shoplifting complaint Wednesday afternoon. A woman who matched the description of the alleged shoplifter was seen by an officer at the scene carrying a case of beer, authorities said.
The officer told the woman to stop but she ran toward a Dodge SUV and told the driver to "Go, go go," according to police.
The driver then exited the parking lot at a high rate of speed and traveled into the southbound lanes of Indianapolis Boulevard, nearly striking several vehicles on the roadway.
Oofficers from East Chicago chased the Dodge Durango into neighboring Hammond, where officers there joined the pursuit, according to Indiana State Police.
The Durango was traveling east on Gostlin Street when it crashed into the driver’s side of a Chevrolet Equinox, which was being driven north at the intersection of Columbia Avenue and had the green light, state police said.
The force of the collision sent the Equinox through a fence and into a grassy area off the side of the road. A 13-year-old passenger, Julianna Chambers, was taken to Franciscan Health in Hammond, where she died.
Her 57-year-old grandmother, who was driving, was taken in critical condition by helicopter to Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn. They are from Whiting, Indiana.
The 31-year-old Highland man driving the Durango was arrested by East Chicago police. His passenger, a 27-year-old woman, was taken to Northlake Methodist Hospital in Gary with minor injuries. Police said Thursday she was treated for injuries from the crash and placed into custody.
Charges were pending against both the driver and passenger, but details on what the charges would be weren't immediately known.
"The Hammond Police Department would like to extend our condolences to the family of Julianna Chambers who lost her life in a traffic incident," Hammond police said in a statement.
An investigation remained ongoing Thursday.
"The East Chicago Police Department would like to express their condolences to the family members as they continue to pursue charges in this investigation," the department said in a statement Thursday.