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Hammond Mayor Tom McDermott at MLK Park rededication

Basketball play returns to Hammond's MLK Park

Contributed By: The 411 News

After gun violence shut down the courts for nearly a year

Mayor Tom McDermott, at podium; rear l-r, Rev. Herman Polk, Hammond Central Basketball Coach Larry Moore, Hammond School Superintendent Scott Miller, 3rd District Councilman Barry Tyler, and Hammond Chief of Police Andy Short

With a shout of let's play ball, Hammond Mayor Tom McDermott put up the first ball at the reopening of the basketball courts and rededication of Martin Luther King, Jr. Park Saturday morning.

Basketball courts at MLK Park have been empty since August 2022, after 2 shootings in three days. On the last day, a sunny afternoon, a Hammond man was shot to death.

Disbelief and dismay that the tragedies took place at the park "named after Martin Luther King, Jr. who was all about peace and nonviolence," Mayor McDermott said, led to the decision to shut down the courts.

Joining the mayor were police chief Andy Short, school superintendent Scott Miller, city councilman Barry Tyler, coach Larry Moore and Pastor Herman Polk.

The decision wasn't an easy one for the mayor. It was the aftershocks, trauma for the witnesses who watched a man die and anxiety in the community about public safety.

"I'll be honest with you, there was a lot of pushback," Mayor McDermott said. "And I thought that I was gonna get a lot of pushback from the neighbors. The thing that I found very surprising was, all the neighbors around here agreed with our move. They thought it was in the best interest and things were getting out of control."

MLK Park sits next to Hammond's city hall, between Highland and Lyons streets.

Hammond Chief of Police Andy Short said the shooter in the August fatality had parked close to the court, argued with and shot Jullius Brooks, then ran back to his car and took off.

"It's like an auto show with all the cars," Chief Short said.

"We think part of the problem we have out here is we're making it easy for people to drive up, park their car real close. And if something bad happens, just drive away real quick," Mayor McDermott said. "So we're going to enforce parking in this neighborhood strictly. We repainted everything. Everything's yellow; no parking on Lyons, no parking on Highland."

And more police patrols will keep the traffic moving, Chief Short said.

"This is a beautiful neighborhood. If the basketball courts aren't contributing to the quality of life here, we are going to have to do something about it," Mayor McDermott said.

Story Posted:05/15/2023

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