Man charged with nephew's shooting

Rodney Hoffer

La PORTE – A Michigan City man who told police he'd been injured in a random shooting in downtown La Porte was actually shot by his uncle during a domestic dispute near New Carlisle, according to authorities.

La Porte County Sheriff's deputies responding to an unrelated domestic dispute in unincorporated Wills Township later charged 52-year-old Rodney Reed Hoffer with felony battery for the shooting, which left the 35-year-old victim hospitalized, according to the sheriff's office.

Just before 6 p.m. Saturday, deputies were sent to La Porte Hospital for a gunshot victim. They found a man who had suffered an injury to his right leg being treated by hospital staff, according to a police report.

The man told deputies he was struck by what he believed to be a "stray bullet" as he walked along Scott Street after being brought to Al's Supermarket by his grandmother, the report said. He told deputies to "just leave it alone" before becoming uncooperative and using expletives.

The grandmother, a La Porte resident, said he had a history of "drug and alcohol abuse" and had lived with her and his father at different times, the report said,

She said on the day of the shooting, she brought the victim to La Porte and they went to Al's, where they argued and he took off walking, the report said. He later returned and said he thought he'd been shot "somewhere on Scott Street."

Police questioned the story, because the woman said she took her groceries home before taking her grandson to the hospital because she "didn't see any blood," the report said. However, officers reported seeing blood on the victim's pants leg, and on the floor of the ER; and said the location of the wound would make him unable to walk.

The case was then turned over to La Porte City Police.

Later that day, just after 7 p.m., deputies were dispatched to the 8500 block of CR-350E for a domestic dispute, and learned it was the same address originally given for the shooting victim. An E911 dispatcher said there was an open phone call with someone yelling for help at that address.

Police said no one answered the door, but when they looked through a basement window, they saw a man seated in a recliner with a shotgun across his legs, the report said. They continued knocking and identifying themselves as officers until the man stood up and approached the door, still holding the shotgun, the report said. After walking away, he returned without the gun and his hands in the air.

When he opened the door, a "distraught" 47-year-old woman also came out. The man, later identified as Hoffer, appeared intoxicated the report said. Asked what they'd been arguing about, he said,  "I might as well get ready to go to jail ... because I got in a fight with my brother and I shot him."

He identified the victim of the earlier shooting, though the two were not brothers. It was later determined the victim was his nephew.

Hoffer said the victim was "was going to kick my a** and I told him I don't fight anymore" and "he came at me and I shot him in the leg five times," the report said.

He said the woman, his girlfriend, told her she was leaving him, and he went outside to find the victim consoling her and getting "a little too close," so he got the gun and shot him, the report said. He also told officers he "didn't shoot him in the head or anything, I shot at his legs. He kept coming at me so I kept shooting."

He claimed the shooting was in self-defense, the report said.

In the patio area, police found several shell casings and rounds that had struck concrete, siding and a storm door, as well as drops of blood, the report said.

Police confiscated several casings, shrapnel, the two shotguns, and a Glock handgun, which the woman gave to officers, saying she had wrapped it in a towel and put it in the bathroom closet, the report said.

He was arrested on a suspicion of criminal recklessness for shooting a firearm into an inhabited dwelling, a charge later amended to felony battery.

He remains in the La Porte County Jail on a $15,000 cash bond, and was scheduled to appear in La Porte Circuit Court on Wednesday, according to the sheriff's office. The case remains under review by the prosecutor's office, the report said.

—From staff reports

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