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Investigators rule NW Indiana police shooting justified

(LAKE STATION, Ind.) An independent investigation into the fatal police shooting of an 84-year-old man brandishing a shotgun Tuesday in the parking lot of a northwest Indiana municipal building ruled the shooting was justified.

Police were called to the Lake Station City Hall at 10:29 a.m. after employees heard a gunshot and looked outside to see 84-year-old John Laco standing in the parking lot with a shotgun, according to a statement from the Northwest Indiana Major Crimes Task Force.

The police station is located inside the same building, and when three officers went outside to investigate, they found Laco sitting in his vehicle with the windows rolled down and the barrel of the shotgun exposed out the window, according to the statement.

The officers ordered Laco to drop the gun and display his empty hands, but he got out of the vehicle and pointed the shotgun at the officers, according to the task force. The three officers fired a total of 11 shots from 15 to 20 yards away, and Laco sustained three gunshot wounds to his head, chest and right hand.

Laco died at the scene, and investigators determined he died with his finger on the trigger of a 16-gauge pump shotgun, the task force said. He also had an “inoperable” pellet handgun in the front pocket of his sweatshirt.

Laco’s vehicle, two adjacent vehicles and the nearby branch of the Lake Station Public Library were damaged by bullets and bullet fragments, according to the task force. No other injuries were reported.

Lake Station Police Chief Kevin Garber requested the Major Crimes Task Force conduct an independent investigation, and the preliminary finding is that the shooting was justified and the officers’ actions “prevented other catastrophic events from occurring,” according to the statement.

A formal report of the task force investigation will be forwarded to the Lake County prosecutor’s office for independent review, and Lake Station police will also conduct an internal review, according to the task force.