Jury convicts Gary man in gas station murder

A jury convicted a Gary man Wednesday for a murder inside a 5th Avenue gas station.

Aaron Sawyer, 26, faces 45-65 years for the murder. He also faces another seven years for a firearms enhancement, according to his lawyer John Cantrell.

His sentencing date is April 23.

Sawyer, the gunman, was charged in the May 31, 2020 shooting death of Dorell “Dooda da Shoota” Townsend, 22, of Gary.

Sawyer’s half brother Terry Horton pleaded guilty as an accomplice — assisting a criminal, a Level 5 felony — in December 2020. He is facing up to three years in prison in exchange for his testimony.

Horton said on the stand Tuesday he didn’t know if Townsend wanted to fight him inside the station, but there was no obvious threat moments before Sawyer opened fire.

Prosecutors say Sawyer gunned Townsend down without an argument or sign he was a threat, while Cantrell argued it was self-defense and believed his client thought he had to shoot first.

“I hoped we could have gotten into the street name (Dooda da Shoota), but the court wouldn’t permit us to talk about it,” he said Friday.

Sawyer believed Townsend was “armed and dangerous”, he said.

Gary Police were called at 5:30 p.m. May 31, 2020, to a gas station on the 2700 block of W. 5th Avenue. Townsend was inside, lying by the front doors.

The crime scene was “chaotic,” according to one responding police officer. A “large” crowd gathered, while one family member managed to get past the crime tape and walked up to the gas station’s doors before they were grabbed and removed, according to the affidavit.

Security footage showed Townsend and a woman pulled into the gas station at 5 p.m. Just after, Horton and Sawyer pulled up and followed the pair inside, charges state.

Sawyer appeared to adjust a gun. Horton “traded” words with Townsend.

Sawyer pulled a gun from his pants. He “stopped as three children (and an older woman) walked by,” then shot Townsend multiple times, the affidavit alleges.

The woman, near the doors, ran to her car as glass shattered around her, charges state.

After a news release went out, other Gary officers identified the second man — wearing red pants, a red hat and a white shirt — as Horton. The alleged shooter — who was wearing black shorts, a black shirt and hat — was not initially known.

A tip led detectives to Sawyer’s relative, who was incarcerated. Sawyer was listed as the only man in his contacts.

mcolias@post-trib.com