UPDATED: #JustusHowell, 17, shot in the back in Zion, Illinois | #BlackLivesMatter

Black Illinois Teen Killed By Police Was Shot In Back | Reuters | April 6, 2015

A black teenager killed by police outside of Chicago over the weekend was shot twice in the back after attempting to steal an illegal handgun, officials and local media said on Monday.

The Zion Police Department said in a statement that 17-year-old Justus Howell met with another teenager to buy the gun before trying to wrestle it away. The seller, 18-year-old Tramond Peet whose account was the basis of the police statement, said one round was fired during the struggle.

Police said officers responded to the area and chased Howell, who still had the gun, before shooting and killing him. Police said a weapon was recovered from the scene.

The Chicago Tribune newspaper reported the Lake County Coroner’s Office said that Howell was killed by two gunshot wounds to the back – one piercing his heart, spleen and liver, and the other striking his right shoulder.

Howell was African-American, according to pictures published on Twitter and broadcast by local media.

Zion police said they were aware of the coroner’s findings, but added they could not comment until they had received a complete report from the pathologist.

“The Zion Police Department has no desire to defame the deceased,” police said over why they detailed the events leading up to the shooting. “At the same time we are aware of the public’s need to know.”

Curated from www.huffingtonpost.com


No charges against Zion police in fatal shooting of teen Justus Howell

The Zion police officer who fatally shot an armed 17-year-old in the back last month will not face criminal charges, Lake County State’s Attorney Mike Nerheim announced Thursday.

Nerheim, displaying low-resolution surveillance video of the moment of the shooting, said he concluded that the officer committed no crime in shooting Justus Howell twice in the back April 4 and that the use of force was justified.

The prosecutor emphasized that investigators concluded that Howell was armed with a handgun as he ran from officers and that the gun was recovered within a foot of his body. Witnesses and analysis of Howell’s wounds indicated he started turning toward the officer just before he was shot, Nerheim said.

“Officer Hill provided Howell ample opportunity to drop the weapon, and only fired when he felt that his life and the life of his fellow officer was in danger. These are the facts. Justus Howell was armed and dangerous. For those reasons Officer Hill was in fear for his life, and acted reasonably and justifiably to protect himself and his fellow officer,” Lake County State’s Attorney Michael Nerheim on May 14, 2015.

Outside the Lake County Courthouse in Waukegan where Nerheim and other law enforcement officials held a news conference, Howell’s mother,  LaToya Howell, took issue with authorities’ assertion that Howell appeared to be turning toward the officer. Activists had called for murder charges against the officer.


Blogger’s note:

Here is another case where the suspect, whether armed or not, was shot in the back while running away from the scene. The coroner in this case has determined that Justus Howell diet from gunshot wounds to the heart. He was also hit in the right shoulder. Both bullets entered the body from the back.

It is generally accepted that police can only fire their weapons when they are under a direct threat. It is also generally accepted that once the suspect has his back turned and is running away from the scene, there no longer is any basis for a claim that there was an imminent threat to the officer.  There is no other justification for the application of deadly force.

In Illinois, the law gives police officers the discretion, as interpreted by DePaul University’s Edward Ronkowski, Jr., to:

“1) to prevent death or great bodily harm;  2) to prevent the defeat of an arrest by resistance or escape where the arrestee is either (a) committing a forcible felony, (b) attempting to escape by the use of a deadly weapon, or (c) otherwise indicating he will inflict great bodily harm unless arrested without delay;  3) to prevent a forcible felony;  4) to prevent a felony in a dwelling;  5) to prevent an assault after a violent, riotous entry into a dwelling; or 6) to prevent an escape from a penal institution.”

So, given what we know was not happening, why was Justus Howell shot, at all? In the absence of an imminent bodily threat, assuming there was some other valid reason, why didn’t the officer aim at Howell’s lower limbs to neutralize him? According to witness accounts, Howell, at the time of the shooting, was not involved in any activity that could have been construed as threatening to others. Does having a gun in one’s possession, lawfully or unlawfully, automatically present such an imminent threat to police that the use of deadly force becomes permissible even when the suspect is in retreat?

Justus Howell should have lived. He should have had the opportunity to grow up. He should have been able to be given the chance to undergo transformation and become the best he can be. Maybe, someone like Shaka Senghor might have reached him and helped him change? Watch his TedTalk:

In 1991, Shaka Senghor shot and killed a man. He was, he says, “a drug dealer with a quick temper and a semi-automatic pistol.” Jailed for second degree murder, that could very well have been the end of the story. But it wasn’t. Instead, it was the beginning of a years-long journey to redemption, one with humbling and sobering lessons for us all.

Curated from Blog #42

The Zion police officer who killed Howell’s only job was to bring him to the police station.  Instead, he sent him to the morgue. How is Justus Howell’s treatment at the hands of police in compliance with Illinois law? How is it not excessive use of force?


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