Man charged with murder in Coke Lot fatal shooting

Avory Johnson
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Prosecutors have charged a suspect in a fatal shooting outside the Indianapolis Motor Speedway with murder.

Avory Johnson was formally charged last week in the May 24 shooting of Max Levine in the Coke Lot. Johnson was also charged with a misdemeanor count carrying a handgun without a license.

The shooting happened around 2 a.m. in the popular parking lot and camping area near the Speedway, a day before the Indianapolis 500. Witnesses told police the shooting stemmed from an argument between two groups.

Levine, a 25-year-old father from Kokomo, died from his injuries.

"The last thing he said was, 'Love you grandma and grandpa' and we said, 'We love you, too. Stay safe.' And he says, 'Oh, I will. Don't worry'," recalled Linda Bickel, Levine's grandmother. "And that was the last...the last we said to one another."

Police had arrested Johnson shortly after the shooting, but released him after realizing they hadn't separated witnesses they initially interviewed to keep them from talking with each other.

Prosecutors say new evidence in the case led to the murder charge, which was filed August 21. An arrest warrant was issued for Johnson last week and he was taken into custody by police in Hurst, Texas on Monday. He will be extradited to Indianapolis to face charges.

Levine's family says the arrest brings a sense of justice months in the making."We're so grateful to the Speedway Police Department and Detective Roemke for not letting this go," said Bickel. "We don't know this young man. He doesn't look like a bad person, but he killed my grandson and I want to be able to tell his little girl someday...that somebody was brought to justice for killing her daddy."

"I'm very confident in the fact that Detective Roemke has a good, solid case and I know that some form of justice will be served," said Levine's mother, Jan Bickel. "It's not anybody's fault except the person who pulled that gun out and fired it at my son."

Levine's family says they're praying for Johnson's family, too. But even his arrest doesn't lessen the loss, especially for Levine's little girl, who is only three years old.

"we don't know this young man," said Linda Bickel, Levine's grandmother. "He doesn't look like a bad person, but he killed my grandson, and I want to be able to tell his little girl someday."

She said she knows there isn't anything that will bring her grandson back.

"All his daughter knows is daddy is in heaven and she's asking why he can't get out and see her," Bickel said. "It's in God's hands now and, hopefully, in the hands of the jury."

Statement from Max Levine's mother

Jan Bickel also released the following statement about Tuesday's developments in the case:

With the charges against the murderer of my son, Max Levine, having been filled, our family and Max's many friends have someone to hold responsible for his life being taken from us all.This will not bring Max's smile, laughter, love, caring ways, and congenial personality back to the hundreds upon hundreds of family members and friends his murder has effected.

His daughter will have difficulty remembering him picking her up and hugging her, the way Max smelled, his presence. The experience of sharing Maddison's entire life with her dad was taken from both Max and her.

I have been devastated by the loss of my son, as have Max's grandparents, his brother, sister, uncles, aunts and cousins. Our lives without Max are completely changed without his love, thoughtfulness and care.

Max's friends, our families friends, through their grief, have been encouraging to my family and continue to help us through this entire time of grief. I want to thank everyone for their thoughtfulness and prayers.

I have the up most faith in God serving some kind of justice for all of us, through the court system.

I would like to thank Detective Lauren Roemke of the Speedway Police Department for her diligent work in solving this case. I know she has spent many sleepless hours on this case.

My heart and prayers also go out to the family and loved ones of Avory Johnson. I cannot imagine how his mother must feel. The hurt and pain caused to countless lives from this one senseless momentary act of violence is unbelievable.