Not guilty plea for murder suspect
MICHIGAN CITY – The teenager charged with fatally shooting 18-year-old Dareon Brown on the Michigan City’s east side last week appeared for his initial court hearing on Thursday.
Sixteen-year-old Hakim Zamir Lamar Qualls, charged as an adult with murder and carrying a handgun without a license, remains in the La Porte County Jail on a $1 million cash-only bond.
In La Porte Superior Court 1, Judge Michael Bergerson ordered a bond investigation to determine whether he qualifies for reduced bond, a matter the judge will address at a hearing on Jan. 8.
A preliminary plea of “not guilty” was entered on behalf of Qualls, who indicated he intends to hire private legal counsel to represent him in court.
Qualls’ omnibus hearing, the date by which the state must turn over evidence to the defense, was set for Feb. 14.
The judge will schedule Qualls for a jury trial at that time.
According to the probable cause affidavit in the case, Brown and his girlfriend were outside a friend’s house in the 200 block of Karwick Road on the afternoon of Dec. 18, when Qualls approached and fired three shots.
The girl told officers no argument preceded the shooting, although she said Qualls did not like Brown for reasons unknown to her, according to court records.
She was able to identify Qualls as the shooter because they had shared a science class at Michigan City High School, where Qualls was a junior, the affidavit says.
Another eyewitness said he saw the shooter flee the scene on foot while carrying a silver firearm, according to Michigan City Police.
After the shooting, an intense manhunt began, with police cordoning off several city blocks for more than seven hours.
An anonymous tip emailed to the police later that night indicated Qualls was at his girlfriend’s residence in the 200 block of Merrihill Drive.
There, police say, he was taken into custody “peacefully.” They also report having recovered a backpack containing two guns – a black and brown Taurus and a silver revolver – at the time of Qualls’ arrest.