A Merrillville, Indiana, police officer who was shot during an exchange of gunfire on Friday night has died of his injuries. Police Patrolman Second Class Nickolaus Schultz was removed from life support before dying in an Oak Lawn, Ill., hospital at 9:37 a.m. He was 24 years old.
Schultz was among a group of officers who responded to a call from management at the Temple Lake Condominiums in Merrillville at approximately 10:45 p.m. on Friday. Condominium managers had placed the call to dispatch regarding Michael Hrnciar, 33, who had been evicted by sheriff’s officers from his foreclosed home at 8219 Lincoln Circle, Apt. B, in July but had re-entered the property. After multiple attempts to contact Hrnciar were unsuccessful, police kicked in the door to gain entry to the unit, which had no electricity, and were searching the property when shots were fired.
As the suspect and officers exchanged fire, Schultz was shot once in the head. He was brought to the Advocate Christ Medical Center, escorted by Indiana State Police, in critical condition. There is no hospital near Merrillville, located in the northwest of Indiana, that can adequately treat a gunshot wound as critical as that of Schultz. For that reason, many serious trauma injuries are treated in Chicago and other suburban hospitals.
Suspected shooter Hrnciar, who was clad in body armor and had armed himself with a handgun when the shooting occurred, was shot to death. The medical examiner’s office determined that after ambushing responding officers, Hrnciar had killed himself. He had no prior criminal record other than minor traffic offenses.
According to Indiana Major Crimes Task Force Cmdr. Don Foley, the Porter County bomb squad was first summoned to the property in order to assess materials for making fireworks which were found on the scene – materials which they believe were present in order to make homemade bombs. Finding no completed and assembled bombs or fireworks, the scene was cleared by the bomb squad and declared safe for residents of the area.
A total of 25 agencies, including the ATF and the FBI, represent the 63 investigators assigned to the task force for this case. Because Merrillville was involved in the shooting, the police department of that city is involved only as support. Officials have said that there were weapons in the home that have been removed, but would not elaborate on whether any of the weapons were firearms.
Schultz graduated from Franklin College in 2013 with a double major in criminal justice and sociology. He had worked for the Merrillville Police Department since July 23, 2013. A fund to help Officer Schultz’s family has been established by the Merrillville Town Council at Centier Bank. Donations can be made to the Benefit Fund account number 102468443.
Indiana Gov. Mike Pence offered condolences and praise in a statement regarding the death of Officer Schultz, whose ultimate sacrifice comes just two months after the fatal shooting of another northwestern Indiana police officer, Jeffrey Westerfield. Gary Patrolman Westerfield was shot while responding to a domestic violence call on July 6. As he searched for the suspect, he was shot and killed.
By Jennifer Pfalz