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Gerron gets two years for firing gun at Michigan City home

MICHIGAN CITY — A Michigan City man was sentenced to two years in prison, one year on work release and a year of probation on Thursday for his role in an Eastport neighborhood shooting last June.

Oshei Shakur Gerron, 25, pleaded guilty in January to a Level 4 felony count of being a serious violent felon in possession of a handgun.

In exchange for his cooperation, a Level 5 felony count of criminal recklessness was dismissed.

“First of all, I want to apologize to the court and everyone who this case may have affected, family included,” Gerron said during his sentencing hearing in La Porte Superior Court 1 on Thursday.

“I also would like to plead with the court and ask for the judge to hear my cry for help. Yes, I am wrong and have made a terrible, life-altering mistake by breaking the law again; and yes, I know I must be punished for my wrongdoing. But all I ask is that you find it in your heart to please not give me all the time in the Department of Correction.”

In fact, Gerron asked that he receive no prison time, and instead, serve two years on work release and two years on probation, or some other alternative placement.

He cited his grandmother’s “rapidly declining” health and the health of his mother, who is the caregiver for both her mother and Gerron’s eldest child now that Gerron is incarcerated.

“Your honor, yes, I have made a mistake, but I am no slouch when I am free,” Gerron said.” I take care of my responsibilities and others’, too. I work hard when I am able and am an asset to my family.”

His wife testified that he is an active father to their 5- and 3-year-old children, and that he is his eldest child’s primary parent, as that child’s mother is in prison.

“I am also still dealing with my cancer situation, which my family has been a great help and support in my recovery,” Gerron said. “My family – wife, children, mother, etc. – have been constantly losing a lot since I’ve been incarcerated and are in desperate need of my assistance.

“So, I plead, cry and beg once again that you allow me to come home in a reasonable, timely fashion, your honor.”

Deputy prosecutor Mark Roule conceded that Gerron had been “relatively forthright” and cooperative throughout the investigation, and had accepted responsibility for his actions, sparing a witness the trauma of having to testify.

However, Roule said, multiple violent felonies exist in Gerron’s criminal history, warranting some DOC time for the current case, the amount of which he left up to the discretion of the court.

“Mr. Gerron, I’ve known you for some time. You’re an intelligent person. But in this particular case, you have acknowledged, again, that you violated the law,” Judge Michael Bergerson said.

The judge said an executed prison sentence was inevitable before handing down two years behind bars, then a year of work release followed by one on probation – steps the judge said would “assist you in finding your way to provide for your family, provide for yourself, be a credit to your community, to our community.”

Gerron received an additional year of probation for having violated his previous probation by getting arrested in this case.

He was credited with 222 actual days served and 74 days good time credit, for a total of 296 days.

Michigan City Police responded to a call of shots fired in the 700 block of Emma Street on June 22, 2019, and found numerous bullet casings on Grand Avenue between Emma and Fairfield Avenue.

A witness informed told police several people were gathered outside an Emma Street residence for a birthday party when some uninvited guests – including Gerron – arrived.

When she heard the gunfire, she said, she saw Gerron standing on Grand Avenue shooting northward toward the alley.

Multiple bullets reportedly struck the detached garage, where people had initially run for cover.

Additionally, two bullets that appeared to have been fired from the southbound direction were found to have struck the garage of a Fairfield Avenue residence; and another bullet traveled through the living room and into the kitchen of a different Fairfield Avenue home.

The witness told police she believed there to have been a second shooter because of the number of gunshots, as well as the different directions from which the sound of gunfire could be heard.

However, no other shooter was named in police documents or court proceedings.

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Black History Month quilt shows 'people doing great things'

MICHIGAN CITY — Joy Elementary School teacher Stephanie Rozinski is using a quilt to cover Black History Month.

Her 13 students, ranging in age from second to sixth grade, have pieced together a paper display titled the African American History Quilt, which hangs in the entryway of the school.

“We did it as an introduction, so we are still learning about all these people. We will be studying them more in depth throughout February,” said Rozinski, who got the quilt idea off of the website teacherpayteachers.com.

“When I needed something new for Black History Month, that is where I went looking,” she said.

She said the project gives students an opportunity to read non-fiction texts and research for more information on their Chromebooks.

The quilt designates three squares for each of the 30 famous African Americans the students are studying. One square contains the individual’s name, one is an illustration, and the third lists a brief summary of his or her life and accomplishment.

“I think it benefits them to see people doing great things that look like them and to see racial mirrors,” she said. “It helps them have an understanding of history. The kids get really excited about Black History Month. It’s a favorite topic of theirs.”

Fifth-grader Derion Parks was especially interested in the assignment so he prepared the top and bottom title pieces. He also enjoyed looking up more research about his contributions to the quilt, which included Rosa Parks and Michael Jordan.

Rozinski said Derion is also working hard on a poster about Kobe Bryant for the 2020 Michigan City Human Rights Commission Black History Month Contest, with the theme of “African Americans Whose Vision and Works have Impacted the Future.”

Jamie Mark, who is in the sixth grade, said, “I liked Jackie Robinson because he’s a baseball player and I like baseball, too.” He also studied Oprah Winfrey and Mary Jackson, the first black female engineer at NASA.

Fourth-grader Charles Hibbett was drawn to another Charles – Dr. Charles Drew, a surgeon and medical researcher known for his ground-breaking discoveries with blood; as well as Dorothy Vaughan, a mathematician and human computer who worked for the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA).

“I chose her because I liked her jacket,” Hibbett admitted, and also said he thought Ruby Johnson Jones, the first African American faculty member, was the “best one,” even if he wasn’t assigned to her piece in the quilt project.

The famous African American who stood out in fourth-grader Antwone Wright’s mind was “The Peanut Guy” – George Washington Carver – because he “made things out of peanuts.”

As a whole, the class favorites?

“They love Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr., and Barack Obama,” Rozinski said. “Some of the girls were into Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson.”

The class is learning about the individuals according to their time period in history, including the end of slavery, the rise of the African American influence, the civil rights movement, and present day, she said.

Trying to grasp the large span of time, it’s not unusual as she introduces a new person for the students to ask, “Are they dead?”

She tells them that although many of the subjects have died, there are plenty such as former President Barack Obama that still inspire today.

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Michigan City Police announce promotions of 10 officers

MICHIGAN CITY — A total of 10 Michigan City Police officers were honored with promotions on Wednesday during a special ceremony at City Hall.

The Michigan City Police Commission promoted the officers within the rank and file of the Michigan City Police Department.

Chief of Police Dion Campbell said after the ceremony, “I wanted to sincerely congratulate all of these invaluable supervisors. From the new supervisors getting ready to jump into supervision for the first time, to the veteran supervisors, we need all of them now more than ever to help instruct, lead and guide the new officers of the Michigan City Police Department into the future.

“I have no doubts that all of our supervision staff are ready to take on the challenge of making the Michigan City Police Department the premiere law enforcement agency in Northwest Indiana.”

Openings became available with the recent retirements of Capt. Steve Jesse, Capt. Mark Harris and Sgt. Chris Yagelski.

The Police Commission filled the openings based upon a promotional testing process that began in November 2018. This process to promote an officer within the department is organized and governed by the commission.

The promotional process scores each officer on four promotional testing categories: written exam, oral interview, performance evaluations and longevity.

The officer with the highest score per available rank is then awarded the promotion.

Promoted from lieutenant to captain were Mark Swistek and Greg Jesse; from sergeant to lieutenant, Ken Drake and Kevin Urbanczyk; from corporal to sergeant, Jillian Ashley, Cisco Rodriguez and Anna Painter; and from patrolman to corporal, Marty Corley, Dave Cooney and Mike King.

Swistek is a 28-year veteran of the MCPD and former Chief of Police. He is currently assigned as Commander of the Patrol Shift 1. Swistek has held many positions within the department, including Chief of Operations, Commander of the Drug Task Force, DEA Task Force Officer with the DEA Merrillville Office, Supervisor within the Investigative Division, K9 Officer and SWAT team member. He has been married for 25 years to his wife, Rhonda, an MCPD Records Division Administrator.

Jesse began his law enforcement career with the Indiana University Bloomington Police as a Cadet and Part-Time Officer while a student. In 2004, he joined the MCPD and has served as School Resource Officer, Detective in the Investigative Division, SCUBA Team Member, Drug Recognition Expert, and Bicycle Patrol Coordinator. He is a lifelong resident of the Michigan City area. His wife, Shauna, is a Sergeant with the Gary Police Department. He is accepting the rank previously held by his father, retired Capt. Steve Jesse.

Drake is a 21-year veteran of the MiCPD, currently assigned as Commander of Patrol Shift 3 and Field Training Program Coordinator. Drake has held many positions within the department, including Detective, Drug Task Force Supervisor/Commander, Fugitive Apprehension Street Team Supervisor/Commander and SWAT team member. Lt. Drake comes from a long family history of police officers, including his father, retired Capt. Ken Drake. Lt. Drake’s likes to cite Robert H. Schuller: “Tough times never last, but tough people do.”

Urbanczyk is a 15-year veteran of the MCPD currently assigned as Investigative Division Co-Commander. During his career, he has served as Traffic Officer, Detective, Chief of Operations, Advanced Vehicle Crash Investigations/Reconstruction, Crime Scene Investigator and Evidence Technician.

Ashley was born in Brooklyn, New York, and moved to Michigan City as a teenager. She is a 12-year veteran of the MCPD, currently assigned as Chief of Services, overseeing the plain clothes divisions. She spent most of her career as a Detective, primarily investigating crimes against children and sexual assault crimes. She was also Field Training Officer for the Investigative Division and is one of the department’s Hostage Negotiators. A graduate of the Leadership La Porte County program, Ashley is a veteran, having served eight years with the Indiana Army National Guard. Her husband of 20 years is Pastor David Ashley Sr.

Rodriguez is a 14-year veteran of the MCPD currently assigned as the Commander of the Division of Professional Standards. He has also served as Patrol Field Training Officer, Drug Unit Detective/Supervisor, Fugitive Apprehension Street Team Detective/Supervisor, U.S. Marshal Service Task Force Officer with the Great Lakes Regional Fugitive Task Force and Training Coordinator. He is one of the department’s certified training instructors, who often quotes Richard Branson: “Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough, so they don’t want to.” Rodriguez and his wife, Cheri, have two daughters.

Painter is a 14-year MCPD veteran currently assigned as a Detective. She also served as Investigative Supervisor, Patrol Supervisor, Field Training Program Supervisor, and Taser Instructor. She is a certified training instructor, and when not working, is a die-hard Kansas City Chiefs fan having been born in Kansas City, Missouri, and relocating to Michigan City when she was 10.

Corley is a 19-year veteran of the MCPD currently assigned as a Patrolman on Patrol Shift 1, but with this promotion will be transferred to Patrol Shift 3 supervisor. He previously served as Detective, SWAT team member, and Director of the Youth Leadership Academy. Corley is a lifelong resident of Michigan City and has served on several boards and commissions, including Stepping Stone Shelter, Commission on the Social Status of African American Males, Human Rights Commission, Salvation Army, YMCA and Boys and Girls Club.

Cooney is a 13-year veteran of the MCPD currently assigned as the Chief of Operations, overseeing the uniformed divisions. Born and raised in Michigan City, Cooney has held many positions within the department, including Detective, Burglary Task Force member, Crime Scene Investigator, Evidence Technician, IDACS Coordinator, RMS Manager and SWAT team member/team leader where he participated in more than 65 high-risk search/arrest warrants over the course of seven years. He has been married to his wife, Rayshelle, for nearly 15 years and they have two children. “I’ve learned through the years that it’s not where you live, it’s the people who surround you that make you feel at home,” he said.

King is a 10-year MCPD veteran currently assigned as a Patrolman on Patrol Shift 3, but with this promotion will be transferred to the Division of Professional Standards as Training Coordinator for the department. During his tenure, King has spent a majority of his time on Patrol Shift 3, but was previously assigned to the Special Operations Group and has been an active SWAT team member for eight years. He is a certified training instructor and holds certifications in Defensive Tactics, Emergency Vehicle Operations, Active Shooter and Less Lethal Use of Force Methods. He and his wife have two daughters.