Police release timeline in Merrillville officer's shooting death

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Friday, September 12, 2014
Police pay tribute to Officer Nick Schultz
Merrillville Police Officer Nick Schultz, 24, was killed in the line of duty. Police from several departments escorted his body on Tuesday.

MERRILLVILLE, Ind. (WLS) -- The Northwest Indiana Major Crimes Task Force has completed its investigation into the murder of Merrillville Police Officer Nickolaus Schultz, 24.

Officer Schultz died on Sunday at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, Ill., after being shot last Friday at the Tempe Lake Condominiums in Merrillville, Ind. Officer Schultz was investigating a complaint that an evicted condo owner kept breaking into his foreclosed home and staying there.

Police say Michael Hrnciar, 33, of the 8200-block of Lincoln Circle, was evicted from his condominium after his financial institution foreclosed on his mortgage on July 11. On several occasions in August, property management at the condominium complex said they had to change damaged door locks at Hrnciar's condo after discovering the locks had been tampered with and the unit entered. During that time, Hrnciar had been seen multiple times by residents at the complex. As a result, police say property management asked that the officers be called if Hrnciar was ever seen entering his former unit again.

At 10:45 p.m. on Sept. 5, four Merrillville police officers responded to the Tempe Lake Condominiums after Hrnciar's vehicle was found parked outside his former building and windows that were previously closed were discovered opened for ventilation, police said. After the police tried multiple times to get Hrnciar to answer the door, the property managers authorized officers to force entry into the unit, police said.

With no electricity for lighting, police say they used their flashlights to systematically search the condo. Hrnciar, wearing police-style body armor and lying in wait at the end of a hallway, ambushed the officers by firing two shots from a .45 caliber handgun down the hallway and into the living room, police said. One bullet struck Officer Schultz, another bullet hit a wall, police said. Hrnciar then fired a third time, which drew return gunfire from another Merrillville police officer, police said. Police say although an officer then fired twice at Hrnciar, he killed himself with his third gunshot.

The Lake County Coroner's Office ruled that Hrnciar died from a single, self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head and that he had not been struck by any other gunfire.

The Lake County Sheriff's Department Crime Lab said the gun used to kill Officer Schultz was the same gun Hrnciar took his life with.

Police say Hrnciar worked for ten years as a buyer at an Illinois chemical business and had no reported workplace problems. He reportedly purchased his Merrillville condominium and moved to Indiana from Illinois in 2006 so he could legally carry a handgun, police said. At the time of the shooting, Hrnciar held a valid Indiana Handgun Permit that was issued to him in 2006, the same year he purchased the handgun that was used in Officer Schultz's murder, investigators said. Having financial problems, Hrnciar's former employer said that he quit his job in January of 2013, to cash-out his company pension and use the money to pay down debt, authorities said. Hrnciar was not married and had no children. He had no prior criminal arrests.

Police say Hrnciar had a fascination with commercial-grade fireworks and that evidence recovered from his former residence indicated that he was illegally manufacturing explosives. The Porter County Sheriff's Department Bomb Squad took custody of the explosives, while the Lake County Haz-Mat Team and an environmental clean-up contractor took custody of other flammable, highly toxic chemicals that posed a risk to residents. Those items were shipped to an out-of-state EPA approved incinerator for disposal, police said.

In addition to facing potential felony burglary charges for breaking into the condo, Hrnciar possessed a half-gallon jar of high-grade processed marijuana, and a non-functioning marijuana growing operation, police said.