CROWN POINT, Ind. — A murder warrant has been issued for an 18-year-old Northwest Indiana man accused of killing his best friend while drinking in what police initially called a “gun prank.”
On Saturday, May 27 at around 11:40 p.m., Lake County sheriff’s deputies were dispatched to the 12000 block of Burr Street in Crown Point on the report of an assault with a firearm.
The responding officer later told investigators Denver Johnson, 18, of Cedar Lake, yelled “he’s in the back! I shot him!” as the officer arrived to the home.
Jason Paholik, 16, of Crown Point, was found laying unresponsive next to the fire with a gunshot wound to the chest. He was pronounced dead at St. Anthony Hospital.
Police initially said Paholik was shot and killed during a “gun prank” but court documents shed more light on the incident.
According to court documents, Johnson initially told police they were drinking around the fire pit and he “decided to pull out his gun and pull a prank” on Paholik. He told police he thought the Glock was empty at the time.
During the investigation, a juvenile witness told police the group started drinking beer around the fire at around 9 p.m.
At around 11:30 p.m., the witness told police Johnson was allegedly “using and handling his gun as if it was a toy.”
A detective was able to obtain video and audio of “exactly what occurred” from another home on Burr Street, court documents state.
In the video, a detective noted it showed Johnson, Paholik and at least two other individuals around the fire pit.
According to court documents, an unknown female voice stated “you won’t, p***y,” prior to the sound of Johnson allegedly cocking the gun.
Witnesses are heard telling Johnson to “stop, stop, stop, stop, stop” and “calm calm” prior to the shooting. In the video, documents allege Johnson briefly lowered the firearm before raising it again — which was pointed “directly” at the chest of Paholik.
The video shows Paholik getting shot and immediately falling to the ground, documents state.
Another witness told police someone in the backyard attempted to pull Johnson’s arm down as he was allegedly pointing the gun at Paholik.
Johnson and Paholik were best friends, according to court documents.
After Johnson’s initial statement, he declined to conduct another interview with police without an attorney present, documents state.
He was initially charged with reckless homicide, involuntary manslaughter, pointing a firearm at another and criminal recklessness. However on Monday, all of those charges were dropped by the state.
He bonded out of jail on the previous charges last Wednesday.
The state has charged Johnson with murder. As of Tuesday, he is not in custody and a warrant was issued.