nwitimes.com | 7/29/04 | Deborah Laverty

CRIME: Businessman shoots man he says tried to rob him with a sawed-off shotgun

MERRILLVILLE -- James Shema stood behind the front counter of his store Wednesday afternoon and calmly looked up from his work to greet a potential customer.

It was business as usual for the 60-year-old owner of Shema\'s Outdoor Sports, despite an attempted robbery Tuesday night during which a man allegedly threatened him, his wife, Kathy, and three customers with a sawed-off shotgun.

Instead of becoming a victim, the gun store owner and marksman reportedly shot and seriously wounded his attacker.

Having operated the business since 1975, Shema said he has had break-ins at the store, 7119 Broadway, but this is the first time there\'s been an attempted armed robbery.

\"This was the first time, and I hope it\'s the last,\" the Hebron man said.

The experience, during which he said he thought he and the others might be killed, left him counting his blessings that he was able to react like he did and not remain a victim.

\"I just did what I had to do. When he came in here with a shotgun and no mask on his face I didn\'t think he planned to leave any survivors,\" Shema said.

Shema, who owns a gun permit and is licensed to sell guns, said he also is an experienced marksman who competes.

He said that once he and the others were told to drop to the ground, he had the opportunity to grab, from behind the counter, his STI .40-caliber semiautomatic handgun. He said he stood up and fired two rounds at the man who was trying to rob his store and possibly his life.

\"This guy comes in like that and tells us to all lie on the floor, my thought was he was going to kill everybody. It\'s him or me, and it turned out to be him. I was able to do what I needed to do because the adrenaline was there,\" he said.

Cody C. Hunt, 19, of 4938 Rhode Island St., Gary, was charged Wednesday in Lake Superior Court with attempted robbery, Assistant Police Chief Joseph Petruch said.

He said Hunt on Wednesday afternoon remained in the intensive care unit of The Methodist Hospitals Southlake Campus in Merrillville following surgery Tuesday night.

Petruch said Hunt, who is under police guard, suffered a shot to his left kidney and left elbow. He said that because of the injury doctors had to remove the kidney during surgery.

Neither the hospital nor police were able to give an update on Hunt\'s condition late Wednesday.

Police Detective David Barron said police were called shortly before 6 p.m. They found Hunt bleeding inside the back seat of a Ford Expedition, which was parked behind a restaurant adjacent to the shop.

He said Hunt also was wanted on a warrant for failure to appear for auto theft. Once Hunt recovers, he will be transported to the Lake County Jail, Barron said.

Deborah Laverty can be reached at dlaverty@nwitimes.com or at (219)662-5324.