Merrillville man avoids prison in 2019 road shooting near Wicker Park


A Merrillville man avoided prison Tuesday for his role in a 2019 shooting on Ridge Road near Wicker Park in Highland after leaving a summer festival in Munster, court records show.

Le’Montrell Johnson, now 26, signed a plea agreement filed Jan. 31 admitting to criminal recklessness, a Level 5 felony.

Judge Samuel Cappas sentenced him to 2.5 years on home detention through Lake County Community Correction and 3.5 more years on probation.

Two other co-defendants were charged in the case. Alonzo Kirk was sentenced in July 2021 to 18 months home detention and 2.5 years probation. Court records show there is still an arrest warrant out for Damajae McKenzie.

The shooting happened around 9:15 p.m. June 22, 2019, near the 2000 block of Ridge Road in Highland, a probable cause affidavit said. A man driving eastbound in another car with two friends to a Dairy Queen told police he noticed an SUV weaving back and forth in traffic, wanting to pass him.

Slowing down to let it pass, the SUV sped up and passed a nearby ambulance. Around that time, he saw one of the passengers reach out the window and open fire at his car, documents state. He and his front passenger ducked while trying to pull over. A woman in the back seat hit the floor, court records state. No one was hurt.

The man “had never seen the SUV before,” documents state.

The ambulance’s audio dash cam recorded what sounded like “over 30 shots,” records state. The man told police he saw the SUV run the red light on Ridge Road and Prairie Avenue near Wicker Park’s entrance as it continued eastbound, records state.

Five minutes earlier, a license plate reader and video camera near Ridge Road and White Oak Avenue in Munster picked up the SUV’s information, court documents state, registered to Kirk.

Kirk told police he and friends had left St. Thomas More’s summer festival after a fight where they had been jumped by another group. While driving eastbound on Ridge Road, Kirk’s passengers “told him a car was following them fast and they believed it was the people they just fought with,” court documents said.

After they “heard what they thought was a gun shot,” Kirk told police he passed a semi-automatic pistol to the back seat. McKenzie, a friend of Kirk, and Johnson – whom Kirk “only knew as ‘Trell’” – were “both were shooting from the back seat and they each had guns,” court records state.

Kirk turned over his gun to police and told them the SUV and passengers were at his girlfriend’s house. There, police found two spent .40 caliber casings in the back right passenger floorboard, documents state.

In addition to Kirk driving, his girlfriend was in the passenger seat, she told police. Johnson was her cousin, records state, with a male child sitting between Johnson and McKenzie in the center seat during the shooting. In the rear back row was a female child, another child and the girlfriend’s friend, she said.

Bodycam footage from Munster police working St. Tom’s festival security showed Kirk’s group was kicked out after a fight around 9 p.m. according to charging documents.


Meredith Colias-Pete , 2024-05-08 17:54:26

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