GARY, Ind. — A family in Northwest Indiana is mourning the loss of retired Gary firefighter and member of a groundbreaking high school state champion basketball team.
Wallace Broadnax stopped at Clark gas station, located in the 2200 block of Grant Street in Gary, at around 7:30 a.m. Saturday to fill up his tank. Minutes later, he was shot by two juveniles and was pronounced dead by Lake County authorities less than an hour later.
“He was backing away from these boys, they are pretty young and they just panicked, ran on foot, didn’t even get anything” said nephew Anthony Broadnax. “Completely senseless.”
After Broadnax heard about the shooting, he rushed to the gas station to try to get some context on why someone would shoot the 70-year-old who helped so many others during his life.
“These two young kids,” Broadnax said. “If they asked for money he would have given it to them. He wasn’t trying to tussle with these guys.”
The two young suspects are in custody, but they left the Broadnax family with a hole in their heart.
Broadnax started making his mark on the community as a member of the iconic 1968 Roosevelt High School boys’ basketball team, the first all-Black school from Northwest Indiana to win a state title.
The year prior, while the steel mills were thriving in Gary, the city elected its first Black mayor — Richard Hatcher.
“Back in 1968, Black teens took so much pride in their school and neighborhood because they weren’t allowed to live anywhere else in Gary. Roosevelt, Tolleston and Froebel were all rival schools but the families from each school were related due to tight school boundaries,” Broadnax said. “To think of harming someone, especially someone elderly, would have been unthinkable.”
After playing in England, France and Germany, Wallace Broadnax came home to Gary to work as a firefighter and paramedic.
“He would always be around,” Broadnax said. “He would never announce his presence and a couple weeks later, he’d give you some tips on your game.”
In 1993, Broadnax and the rest of his Roosevelt ’68 teammates were elected to the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame.
While helping save lives as a firefighter and in retirement, Broadnax also worked at the Guy & Allen Funeral Home.
While family is angry, they said they understand some of the conditions that lead to heartbreaking homicides.
“Most of our family is Christian and from Gary,” Broadnax said. “We know the hopelessness that breeds and causes these things. We are angry and heartbroken, but we understand where this comes from. Those boys have thrown their lives away.”
Gary officials are expected to discuss the case in a press conference sometime this week.
Family does not need help with funeral expenses, but anyone can plant a tree in his memory.