Gary, IN - Gary Police Lieutenant George Yaros's killer, Zolo Azania, will regain his freedom on Monday, February 06, 2017.
According to The Chicago Sun-Times, Azania used to be known as Rufus Lee Averhart. And it was as Averhart that he was convicted of the murder of Gary Police Lieutenant George Yaros. On August 11, 1981, Averhart, age 26, and two other men decided to rob the Gary National Bank. They rushed inside the bank around lunch time, carrying revolvers and a shotgun, and shouted at everyone to hit the floor.
One man, wearing a blue suit, stood out as the ringleader. That man was Rufus Averhart, now known as Zolo Azania. The robbers scooped up $19,000 in cash. A manager hiding under a desk quietly tripped a silent alarm. Lieutenant Yaros responded. The robbers gathered at the back door of the bank, as Lieutenant George Yaros arrived. As the robbers threw open the back door, one dropped to a knee. And as the windows of his squad car exploded around him from the gunfire, Lieutenant Yaros radioed “This is the real thing! They’re shooting at me!”
Gary Police Lieutenant George Yaros returned fire but was shot and fell to the ground. The robbers ran to a blue Ford sedan waiting for them in the parking lot. But the man in the blue suit, Averhart, now known as Azania, hesitated. He then walked over to Lieutenant Yaros, age 57, kicked his gun away, and shot him in the chest. Averhart then got into the Ford and the three robbers fled, leading police on a wild chase throughout the city of Gary. The robbers were taken into custody about two miles later after a gunfight.
A retired teacher, William Pendleton, saw the incident from the moment the robbers opened the back door of the bank. He also saw Lieutenant George Yaros' arrival. He told police that Lieutenant Yaros "was a symbol of authority" and "he was doing his duty" by "impeding their escape." A shopkeeper ran over with a blanket for Lieutenant Yaros and yelled at his girlfriend to call a priest.
Averhart was convicted of Lieutenant George Yaros' murder within nine months and sentenced to die. A judge set his execution date for December 15, 1982. Averhart promised to appeal and he did. The Indiana Supreme Court overturned his death penalty on two separate occasions. In the end, Averhart received a sentence of 74 years in prison.
He changed his name to Zolo Azania while in prison. Azania denies killing Lieutenant Yaros. He said that he was involved as an accomplice. His two accomplices, David North and Ralph Hutson, were each convicted and sentenced to 60 years in prison. Both have served time and are now free. Azania as gained a large number of supporters who claim he is a political prisoner because he was a Black Panther.
Azania was no stranger to taking someone's life. He has admitted to killing 69-year-old Leonard Wick in 1972 in a botched robbery. He has also said that he was framed for Lieutenant Yaros' murder because he refused to sell drugs for a Gary Police Officer. In 2015, U.S. District Judge James T. Moody said that the evidence against Azania was "overwhelming."
The .44 Magnum pistol that was used to shoot Lieutenant George Yaros has been linked to Azania. It was found along Azania's escape route. His excuse? He said police planted it there. In 2008, prosecutors wanted to pursue the death penalty against Azania a third time but were unable to because some of the witnesses had died. Instead, prosecutors agreed to a 60-year prison sentence for Azania for Lieutenant Yaros' murder and a 14-year sentence for the robbery. On Monday, he walks free, his prison sentence reduced for good behavior.
Lieutenant George Yaros honorably served in World War II. He was part of D-Day and was wounded in the Battle of the Bulge. Lieutenant Yaros was captured by the Germans at a field hospital in 1944, and was a prisoner of war for six months. He married Ann and they had three children: Barbara, Jane, and Tim. He had two granddaughters before he was murdered. His third grandchild, his first grandson, was born five weeks after he was gunned down.
Ann Yaros' husband was nearing retirement when he was killed. She wouldn't return to their home for a long time after he died. Her children attended one court hearing after another. Lieutenant Yaros' son Tim said that Azania has never looked him in the eye during court, and that he's a coward. He said "if you kill a police officer, you should die. For years, Ann asked when Azania would be executed. She died in 2012.
Lieutenant George Yaros, your life mattered.
If your father was executed in the street like Lt. Yaros, do you think that this sentence would be justice for him? We'd like to know what you think. Please let us know in the comments below.