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Northwest Indiana police officer charged in shooting of off-duty officer’s vehicle

ST. JOHN, Ind. (WISH) — A northwestern Indiana town’s police officer who’s on paid leave was criminally charged Tuesday in a November shooting, the chief of the St. John Police Department said in a news release.

The news release and online court records show Officer Phillip J. Fabian, 33, was charged in Lake Superior Court, Division 3, with a felony count of criminal recklessness and a misdemeanor count of criminal mischief. An initial hearing where formal charges would be presented was set for Feb. 15, and Fabian will receive a summons to appear in court.

Fabian shot at a moving vehicle driven by an off-duty police officer of the Hammond Police Department, Chief Steven Flores said in the release issued Tuesday afternoon. The release did not name the Hammond officer. The Lake County Sheriff’s Department investigated the shooting.

The shooting happened about 2:30 a.m. Nov. 29 near the intersection of West 93rd Street and Cline Avenue, just west of the border of the town of about 21,400 residents. No injuries were reported.

Flores in a Nov. 29 Facebook post described what happened when Fabian was checking an abandoned, unoccupied vehicle: “While out of his patrol vehicle on foot investigating the incident, the officer was checking the area for any potential vehicle owner or driver. While doing so, the officer was standing in the shoulder of the lane near the ditch with his flashlight in hand. The officer reported he observed a vehicle traveling toward him nearly striking him. Fearing for his life, the officer fired several shots at the vehicle which continued to travel away from the scene. The officer was able to catch up to the vehicle and take the driver into custody. The driver was not hit by gunfire nor was the officer injured, however, the officer was transported to the hospital to be checked out.”

The Lake County Prosecutor’s Office has bodycam footage of the shooting, which will not be released because it will be used as evidence in court, Flores said Tuesday.

Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr., in his own Nov. 29 Facebook post, said the off-duty officer was on his way home to St. John when he moved his vehicle to the other side of the road “to give space to an ongoing traffic stop.” McDermott did not name the Hammond officer.

McDermott called the shooting “deadly force” that left a bullet hole in the passenger-side seat of the off-duty officer’s vehicle. “Police officers, like the St. John officer who decided to use deadly force in this case, are a danger to society and don’t deserve to wear the badge of #Hoosier Law Enforcement.”

Fabian has been with the St. John department since June. He previously worked on the East Chicago Police Department.

The St. John Board of Works will determine whether Fabain remains on paid administrative leave, Flores says.