Death of teen shot by police in Illinois ruled homicide; community calls for peace

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ZION, Ill. –The death of a teen shot twice in the back by a Zion, Ill. police officer has been ruled a homicide.

As the family and friends of 17-year-old Justus Howell watch the events unfold in Baltimore, they vow to remain peaceful on the day the Lake County coroner released the findings of a toxicology report.

Howell was shot in the back by a Zion police officer on April 4th. He had smoked pot a few hours before the shooting. His blood alcohol was .035, well below the legal limit.

Zion police say Howell had just bought a gun and was running from the officer when he was shot. Witnesses say they didn’t see a gun. An 18-year-old was pulled over hours later and allegedly told police he brought the gun to Howell who tried to steal it. The gun went off in a struggle and that’s when police were called. A 9-year veteran Zion police officer eventually shot Howell twice.

Community activists Al Rogers and Clyde McLemore say African Americans have had a grievance with the Zion police department for 30 years. They wish preventative measures would have been put in place and relationships built years ago. They are concerned they won’t get the answers they want.

“What we’re seeing in Baltimore and all over the country when these types of things happen – no one wants that here,” Rogers says. “ No one wants to see it in Baltimore but when you continue to let your voices fall on deaf ears, somebody’s going to get your attention one way or the other.”