‘This young man was executed’: Police investigation into death of a 17-year-old shot twice


A spokesman for the family of teenager Justus Howell, who was shot twice in the back by a police officer, has claimed the 17-year-old boy ‘was executed.’

‘This is [a case of] police policing police,’ Howell family spokesman Al Rogers told the Huffington Post.

He continued ‘This young man was executed and at the end of the day, [the investigators] will probably fist-bump and go on to the next tragedy.’

Justus was caught by cops in Lake County, Illinois, as he tried to purchase a handgun earlier this month. Police say he was armed. Some witnesses say the teen had dropped the weapon before officers opened fire. 

The State’s Attorney for northern Illinois’ Lake County, Michael Nerheim, said Tuesday he has been advised the investigation into the shooting death of Howell, a suburban Chicago teenager, by a police officer should be done within approximately two weeks.

Nerheim made the assertion after the county’s coroner released his finding that the 17-year-old’s death was a homicide.

The report released Tuesday by Coroner Thomas Rudd also showed Howell, of Waukegan, 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.’

Rogers addressed the toxicology results, telling the Huffington Post ‘Justus’ decisions are not the ones in question. It’s the policeman’s decisions that are in question.’

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.

However, Rogers told the Huffington Post ‘We have no confidence in our local law enforcement agency [or] the major crimes task force.’

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 let go of it 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.

Rogers told the Huffington Post that the Howell family doesn’t know what went on.

‘We just don’t know,’ he told the news outlet. ‘We hear bits and pieces of what was supposed to [have] happened, but the one thing we know for certain is he was shot in the back as he was trying to run away.’

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.

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