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Hammond schools chief beaten in home invasion

HAMMOND, Ind. – The school superintendent in Hammond was in critical condition Wednesday after being beaten in a home invasion.

Superintendent Walter Watkins, 67, suffered extensive head injuries and a fractured jaw in the attack, said Hammond police Lt. Richard Hoyda. Watkins’ sister found her injured brother Tuesday when she stopped by his house to bring him breakfast, Hoyda said.

Watkins was being treated at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, Illinois, where hospital spokesman Tony Ellis said Watkins remained in critical condition Wednesday.

Hoyda said that when officers arrived at Watkins’ home, “he was conscious but barely coherent when we first found him.”

“Our detectives are checking the area for anyone who has any information about this,” Hoyda told The Times of Munster (http://bit.ly/1iXlASg).

When Watkins was found, his home was darkened by a widespread power outage that followed a wave of severe storms that swept through the region early Tuesday.

Hoyda said police don’t have a motive in the attack, which occurred between Monday night and Tuesday morning.

Theo Boone, the school district’s chief financial officer, said he will be leading the district until Terri Mayerick, chief administrator for academic services, returns from vacation.

“We are cooperating with the police, and there will be a full investigation,” Boone said.

Watkins has been with the School City of Hammond 37 years, starting off as a teacher at Eggers Middle School. He has been superintendent nearly 12 years.

School officials told The Times that Watkins was once shot while he was a teacher at Eggers, but they had no other details about what occurred during that incident.

Watkins took over as the district’s superintendent in January 2003, becoming the district’s first black superintendent.

Teachers union President Patrick O’Rourke said he’s “shocked and mortified” by the attack that injured Watkins.

“I have a lot of affection for Dr. Watkins. He’s a good human being and a good superintendent,” O’Rourke said.

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