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Manhunt For Gunman On Shooting Spree Goes Nationwide

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Sketch of Beecher Gunman

A sketch of the suspect in the shootings in Beecher, Ill., and Lowell, Ind. (credit: Will County Sheriff)

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CROWN POINT, Ind. (CBS) - The search continues for an armed and dangerous suspect responsible for a shooting spree in southern Will County and Northwest Indiana.

Lake County, Ind. and Will County sheriff’s police are searching for a man in his 40s, who is suspected of opening fire on two people at Stony Island Avenue and County Line Road near Beecher Wednesday morning, killing one of them. He then traveled to Lowell, Ind. where he shot another victim.

The manhunt continues Wednesday night, as police are sorting through several tips and leads.

“It’s absolutely a double-edged sword, but it’s an important one to have, because without the public’s information, you may not get that little piece that’s gonna put it all together,” said Will County Sheriff’s spokesman Pat Barry.

Meanwhile, two of the victims remain hospitalized. Farmer Keith Dahl, 62, is recovering from multiple gunshot wounds at St. Anthony Medical Center in Crown Point, Ind. He is expected to be OK. Dahl survived the shooting by playing dead. He is the third victim of the shooting spree.

It all began at a burned-out farmhouse near Beecher that was being repaired. Three workers were at the scene when a man drove up and asked about buying the place, then drove off.

A short time later, the man returned and asked about building materials. Then suddenly, without warning, he pulled out a .38 or .357 revolver and started shooting. Two men were shot. Rolando Alonso, 45, of Hammond, Ind., was killed. Joshua Garza, 19, also of Hammond, was taken to Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn in very critical condition.

The third man ran into a cornfield and called 911.

“As soon as multiple vehicles arrived, they then went into the house, and found another subject that had been shot inside the residence,” said Will County Sheriff Paul Kaupas. “And then we were told that there was a third subject, the witness, who ran out into the cornfield. They had to coax him out of the cornfield. He didn’t believe, at first, that they were the police.”

At the Beecher scene, investigators searched for physical evidence, such as fingerprints and footprints in the construction dust. There’s no word yet on what, if anything, they found.

Later Tuesday morning, a suspect with the same description approached a farmer, identified as 62-year-old Keith Dahl, near his home in Lowell, Ind. near 201st Street and Cline Avenue.

The suspect asked Dahl for his wallet. Dahl refused. The suspect then said something about honeybees in the area, pulled a gun and shot Dahl three times; in the shoulder, the left arm and the elbow. He then robbed him. Dahl played dead and the suspect drove off. Dahl is wounded, but survived the shooting. He is in stable condition at St. Anthony Medical Center in Crown Point, Ind.

Police say the suspect is described as a white heavyset man in his 30s or 40s, about 5’10” to 6′ tall, weighing between 220 and 260 pounds. Police say he looked disheveled when he was last seen, wearing a greenish blue jacket, baseball hat and light-colored jeans. He is driving a 1990s light-colored Chevrolet or Ford pickup truck with a noisy muffler.

Police are advising area residents to exercise caution.

“I think each and every one of them should take whatever personal safety measures they believe is reasonable, to be sure that if you suspect something that is not normal, that it might be the pickup truck or the individual that we have described, to contact us. Dial 911,” Sheriff Roy Dominguez of Lake County, Ind.

“It’s a puzzle. Unfortunately there’s a lot of mysteries that never get solved, and we’re hoping and praying that this isn’t one of those mysteries,” said Barry.

Meanwhile, CBS 2’s Suzanne Le Mignot spoke with Claudia Gonzalez, who is Rolando Alonso’s wife. She says she is devastated at the loss of her husband. He leaves behind 10 children.

“It’s very hard for me, I can’t imagine my life without him and my kids. It’s too hard for me,” she said.

Alonso had only been working at the Beecher home two days when he was killed. Family and friends say the Hammond neighborhood he called home will never be the same without his cheerful and always helpful presence.

“I can’t understand; the street is so dangerous. He’s working. He don’t expect somebody to come and shoot him. He’s working for his family, for his son, for his kids,” neighbor Sandra Villalobos said tearfully. “I’m going to miss Rolando.”

Family members say Alonso was the ultimate handyman who was willing to help out anyone in need in the neighborhood.

All five schools in the Tri-Creek School Corporation in Lowell, Ind., were placed on lockdown following the shooting. Upon advice from the Lowell Police Department, the schools were locked down due to activitiy in the area that could pose a threat.

Schools in Lowell are closed Wednesday, but the lockdown has concluded. All after-school activities and sporting events are canceled as a precautionary measure.

CBS 2’s Mike Puccinelli, Mike Parker and Suzanne Le Mignot contributed to this report.

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