LAFAYETTE – Two men were found dead after their pickup truck crashed following a shootout with Lafayette police, but it remained unclear Friday how they died.
“We don’t believe they died in the crash or that they died as a result of officer’s actions,” Lafayette police spokesman Lt. Brad Hayworth said. “Obviously we won’t know exactly until we have the autopsy, which is sometime (Saturday). We won’t know for sure until there’s an autopsy.”
A report of a gunshot fired inside a truck parked at an IHOP restaurant led to a brief police chase. The suspect and officers exchanged fire, and the truck eventually crashed into the garage of a nearby house.
“It was wild for a while,” resident Gary Wolf told the Journal & Courier. “I heard three shots, jumped up and went to look out my garage window to see what was going on.”
Officers initially responded to a report late Thursday of a man being held against his will at gunpoint in a truck parked at the IHOP. The pickup truck took off before police got to the scene, but officers found blood on the asphalt where the truck had been. They soon found the vehicle parked behind a business less than a mile away.
The driver of the pickup truck fired at officers and drove off into a residential area. Officers exchanged fire with the suspect, but were not injured. Police followed the pickup truck until the driver pulled over.
Wolf said he witnessed what took place next. Police cornered the truck by pulling up beside and behind the vehicle, which then “just took off and slammed into the house next door,” he said.
No one inside the house was injured but half of the garage was destroyed. The two adults and one child who live there had to stay in a hotel for the night.
Police identified one of the dead men as Joel Ray Hershman, 62, of the northwestern Indiana town of Brook. Deputy Chief Dave Payne said investigators believe Brook was being held against his will by the driver, whose name was not released pending notification of relatives.
Investigators have yet to determine whether shots fired by the officers struck either passenger.