Investigation ongoing in police shooting of Illinois teen

AP News
|
Posted: Apr 28, 2015 8:26 PM

WAUKEGAN, Ill. (AP) — A prosecutor in northern Illinois' Lake County said Tuesday he has been advised the investigation into the shooting death of a suburban Chicago teenager by a police officer should be done within approximately two weeks.

State's Attorney Michael Nerheim made the assertion after the county's coroner released his finding that the death of 17-year-old Justus Howell of Waukegan was a homicide. The report released Tuesday by Coroner Thomas Rudd also showed Howell had small amounts of alcohol and marijuana in his body when he was killed. Howell was shot twice in the back by a nine-year Zion police veteran after a foot chase.

Nerheim noted a homicide is defined as the killing of a human by another human and is not necessarily a crime. He said an investigation continues to determine whether the April 4 shooting of Howell was a "justifiable homicide."

"This determination hinges on a complete evaluation of the facts and circumstances surrounding the incident," Nerheim said. "For those purposes, an independent investigation is necessary."

Lake County Major Crimes Task Force Commander George Filenko said investigators are waiting for analysis of video evidence and other test results to be completed.

"We will get it done, and when the facts are clear, we will present our findings to the Lake County State's Attorney's Office for review," Filenko said.

Howell's grandmother, Alice Howell, compared the death of her grandson to another police killing in South Carolina, where Walter Scott died after being shot in the back by a police officer.

"When the investigation is complete, I hope the state's attorney's office will do the right thing," she said.

Police have said Howell was involved in a scuffle while trying to steal a handgun during a street sale just before the shooting.

Eighteen-year-old Tramond Peet told investigators he met with Howell to sell him a handgun, but that Howell tried to take it without paying, Zion Police Chief Steve Dumyahn has said.

Peet said the gun discharged into the ground during a struggle and he released the handgun when he heard police cars approaching, according to police. Peet told investigators that he saw officers running after Howell, heard them giving Howell commands and then heard gunshots.

Peet was later arrested and charged with aggravated unlawful use of a weapon.

Rudd said Howell had a blood alcohol content of .035 and a small quantity of marijuana in his system. The legal limit for intoxication in Illinois is .08.

Zion is a community of about 24,000 people along Lake Michigan about 45 miles north of Chicago, near the Illinois-Wisconsin state line.