Car thief involved in hit-and-run fatally shot by police in NW Indiana

SUN-TIMES MEDIA WIRE - A suspected car thief who was the driver in a hit-and-run in the south suburbs was fatally shot by police Thursday morning in northwest Indiana after a chase that began in Illinois and crossed the state line three times.

Mark P. Coffey, 33, was shot just after 5:30 a.m. in the 8000 block of Hart Street in Dyer, Indiana, according to the Lake County coroner’s office and Indiana State Police.

While police say the events that followed the chase are unclear as they investigate, they say multiple shots were fired and Coffey died at the scene of the shooting. Officers with Dyer police, St. John police and the Lake County Sheriff’s Department, all in Indiana, were involved in the shooting.

The chase started just before 5 a.m., when south suburban Crete police were notified of a vehicle being stolen a few blocks outside the village, according to Police Chief James Paoletti.

A description of the stolen Buick Regal was broadcast over police radio and moments later, an officer saw a car matching the description at Steger Road and I-394, Paoletti said. The officer began following and requested backup.

Police tried to approach the stolen car at Sauk Trail and I-394, but the driver took off east on Sauk Trail, Paoletti said. The chase led to the parking lot of a church in Dyer, Indiana, about three or four miles away.

The suspect stopped and officers started talking to him, Paoletti said. They ordered him out of the car and he kept making “furtive movements” at his waistband. The suspect suddenly pulled what appeared to be a weapon and pointed it at the officers, Paoletti said. The officers took cover behind their vehicles and ordered him to drop the weapon.

The suspect screamed, “Kill me, kill me,” Paoletti said, then took off out of the parking lot.

He drove to Sauk Village, where he got out of the Buick and jumped into a white Honda Accord, Paoletti said. He appeared to have the keys to the Honda.

Two Crete police units stayed with the Buick, while a third, along with Sauk Village police, followed the Honda, Paoletti said.

When the chase reached Sauk Trail and Jeffrey Avenue, a citizen flagged down officers and said a pedestrian had been struck by the fleeing car, Paoletti said.

The pedestrian, a 47-year-old man, was taken to Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn in critical condition, Paoletti said.

As Crete officers were tending to the injured man, they received word that the suspect had been fatally shot in Dyer, Paoletti said.

In Dyer, officers were chasing the Accord in the 9300 block of Sheffield Avenue, and they later followed the car north into a gas station at the intersection of 81st Street and Hart Street, authorities said. There, it struck another white vehicle before it came to a rest.

In a confrontation that followed, the coroner’s office said Coffey suffered multiple gunshot wounds and died at 9:15 a.m. The manner of his death was pending further investigation.

The officers involved with the Lake County Sheriff’s Department, St. John Police Department and Dyer Police Department have been placed on paid administrative leave, standard protocol for officer-involved shootings, police said.

Coffey, who lived in south suburban Chicago Heights, had an active warrant for battery and robbery and police considered him to be armed and dangerous. He was also wearing an ankle monitoring bracelet issued by the Illinois Department of Corrections, police said.

Indiana State Police and the Northwest Indiana Major Crime Task Force are investigating.

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