US

Police Search for 2 Suspects Who Shot 16-Year-Old in Front of Father While Selling Xbox

By Alan Cheung

Indiana Police are searching for two suspects who were involved in the killing of a 16-year-old who tried to sell his Xbox under the supervision of his father.

Gary Police Commander Jack Hamady said the suspects were two black men aged between late teens to early 20s, and were last seen wearing black hoodies and basketball shorts.

The Lake County coroner’s office identified the teen victim as Johnny Peluyera, who tried to sell his Xbox to people he met on the internet, nwi.com reported.

The transaction took place on June 13 at 5000 block of Maryland Street, Merrillville, Indiana, Hamady said.

Investigators are looking for surveillance footage that may give them more clues.

Hamady believes that the suspects aren’t from out of town.

“The two suspects had to be from the neighborhood,” he said. “They lured [Peluyera] into the area. Someone has to know these guys.”

“In the case of the last teen who was shot, an anonymous tip helped us find the suspect. We are hoping someone will come forward with information this time, too.”

Around 6 p.m. local time, the buyers wanted to test the console using the power outlets on the outside of two homes when a silver handgun was drawn.

Peluyera’s father told his son to run back to the vehicle. The son ran back to the car while carrying his Xbox, but got shot in the back before he could make it into the car.

After the 16-year-old was shot, he climbed into the car and his father drove to an intersection and called emergency services.

When they arrived, the teen was lying in the car unconscious with no sign of life, Hamady said.

The Lake County coroner pronounced Peluyera dead 47 minutes after the shooting.

Hamady issued a warning to those who meet face-to-face with people they find online.

“The Gary Police Department does not encourage buyers and sellers of these online apps meeting at unknown locations,” Hamady said in a news release issued Thursday. “If you are going to make a transaction with an individual online, you should choose a police station parking lot or a public place.”

‘I Want to Put a Hit on Myself’

In a related incident that involves trading with people on the internet, a man who was hired on Craigslist to murder a woman has pleaded guilty to second-degree murder.

Joseph Lopez, 22, told police officers that Natalie Bollinger, 19, posted on Craiglist, the online classifieds website, seeking someone who would help her commit suicide.

Bollinger posted in the “women seeking men” section of the website.

“I want to put a hit on myself,” Bollinger wrote, according to an arrest warrant affidavit obtained by Denver7.

Bollinger took her boyfriend’s Glock 9 mm pistol and Lopez used the pistol to shoot Bollinger dead.

Lopez said that his intent was to meet with Bollinger and convince her that she didn’t need to die. He told officers he spoke with her for several hours and drove around together before he took her home.

After investigators revealed phone records showing his phone had been in the area her body was located, he changed his story and said that when they were driving around, she asked him to stop the car and fled to a wooded area where she shot herself.

He was forced to change his story again after investigators told him they knew Bollinger had not shot herself. He said he pulled the trigger after he prayed with her. Toxicology results of her body showed she had a high level of heroin in her system.

Pleads Guilty

Lopez was charged with first-degree murder but pleaded guilty to second-degree murder on Dec. 3 in a plea deal that avoids the possibility of life in prison.

Under the agreement, Lopez will serve 48 years in prison and five years of parole, reported Denver 7.

But Bollinger’s father Ted Bollinger said he didn’t agree with the deal.

“There’s no justice in this,” he told the broadcaster. “And for Adams County to have enough evidence to convict him and then make him an offer is a spit in my family’s face.”

At the sentencing, he spoke out.

“You took advantage of my daughter,” he said. “She was vulnerable and drugged … You premeditated. Brutally shot and killed my baby. I asked for an eye for an eye. You have been protected. The Bollinger family had no say in this. This is a deal with the devil.”

joseph lopez
Joseph Lopez, 22, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in Indiana on Dec. 3, 2018. (Adams County District Attorney)

Should Have Called 911

Prosecutors said that Lopez had two choices: report the Craigslist post or call 911. Instead, he took a different path that ended in Bollinger’s death and a prison sentence.

Lopez told officers he received the gun he used to kill Bollinger as payment with the hit, reported 9 News.

At the sentencing, a prosecutor called Lopez a predator.

“Natalie Bollinger was a 19-year-old girl with her whole life ahead of her. The defendant was a predator,” Chief Deputy District Attorney Ally Baber said.

“He didn’t respond as a human being. He responded as a predator,” she said.

Zachary Stieber contributed to this report.