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16-year-olds arrested for murder in deadly Elkhart home invasion

October 04, 2012|kstopczynski@wsbt.com | WSBT-TV

ELKHART – It was a split second decision that turned a community upside down. A homeowner’s apparent attempt to protect himself ended up with 21-year-old Danzele Johnson shot to death and two 16-year-olds arrested for murder. 

Several sources told WSBT the homeowner pulled the trigger on the gun that killed Johnson, but Elkhart Police would not confirm that information, only saying it’s under investigation.

This is where it gets a little confusing. Johnson and those two teenagers are all suspects in a felony burglary, and since Johnson died during that alleged burglary, Indiana law allows police to arrest the other two suspects for murder – even if they didn't kill anyone, explained Elkhart Police Lt. Laura Koch.

“You gotta do what you gotta do in a situation like that. I would have done the same thing,” said Tim Shorter, who lives a block down Frances Street from where the home invasion and shooting happened.

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Shorter said he doesn’t know the homeowner well but has talked to him before.

“He’s just a church man. He goes to work and comes home. He lives by himself and he don’t mess with nobody,” Shorter continued.

The homeowner appeared to be home Thursday but wouldn’t open his door for friends or fellow church members who stopped by to check on him. 

“You can’t find a milder tempered person than he is,” said one woman who said she attends the same church. “I was just stopping by here to tell him we love him and we’re thinking about him.”

But they aren’t the only ones upset.

“He just always made you smile and you just couldn't help but be in a good mood when you were around him,” said one of Danzele Johnson’s close high school friends, Melissa Ramer. 

A 2009 NorthWood High School grad, track and football stand out, Johnson had never been arrested or in trouble in Elkhart County. 

“Slowly, it all started appearing on Facebook and I found out through friends. No one could believe it because it just is so bizarre,” Ramer added. “Just know that this wasn’t him and he truly is a good person. It shouldn’t have happened to him and just prayers for the family.”

Now, people on all sides are searching for answers. 

“There’s a lot been going on in this neighborhood and the police haven’t done anything about it,” said Shorter. “We’ve gotta do something to stop this chaos.  It’s got to end some kind of way.”

Koch said officers have responded to several burglary and theft calls in the area near where Wednesday’s incident happened, but investigators aren’t sure whether the suspects in this case are responsible for any of those. At this point, it’s still under investigation. 

The prosecutor has 48 hours from the time of arrest to charge those 16-year-olds.

The homeowner has not been arrested, but police also haven't gone so far as to publicly clear him.

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