Another police shooting to be picked apart

Since this will almost certainly be lumped into the #BlackLivesMatter narrative which is still gripping the media’s attention, a recent incident in Zion, Illinois (near the Wisconsin border on the shores of Lake Michigan) merits attention. Police shot and killed a black teenager after responding to reports of gunfire at the scene. This happened a few days ago, but now the autopsy of the suspect, Justus Howell, is complete and the questions have begun.

A Waukegan teenager had just stolen a handgun from another man when he was shot and killed by Zion police during a foot chase, authorities said late Monday…

The new details from police emerged after family members of Howell and local activists had raised questions about the circumstances of the shooting and said they wanted more information.

The Lake County coroner’s office reported Monday that Howell died from two gunshot wounds to his back. One bullet penetrated his heart, spleen and liver, and the other entered his right shoulder, according to a coroner’s news release on the autopsy.

The as yet unnamed officer who fired the shots has been placed on paid leave while the incident is investigated, as is normal in these cases. But that autopsy report is pretty damning on the surface, eh? Two shots in the back while the suspect was fleeing, not attacking the officers on the scene. I assume Al Sharpton is already on the way to organize a protest.

There are a few other details of this story which they should look at before anyone swarms the police station, though. By the admission of the other person involved in the “business transaction” which was taking place on the streets – one Tramond Peet, currently under arrest on weapons charges – he was there to conduct the illegal sale of a handgun to the seventeen year old Howell. Unfortunately, Howell was seeking a 100% discount on the price and attempted to seize the weapon without paying for it. The gun was fired during the ensuing struggle, attracting the attention of the authorities. When they arrived, Peet took off running one way while Howell (still in possession of the stolen gun by his account) ran off in another direction, then coming under fire from the officer.

There is some debate apparently over whether or not Howell still had the gun in his hand when the police officer fired, but he clearly had it when he left. So is a police officer out of line for using potentially lethal force to stop a suspect who is not attacking him? The alternative in this case is to allow an armed suspect with an illegal weapon to escape into the community.

And how dangerous might he have been after escaping? The Chicago Tribune is already rounding up friends and relatives to paint a rosy picture of the suspect.

A cousin, Shaqurah Bell, said: “I just want justice for Justus. I never thought it would happen to my family. He didn’t deserve this. We are praying for him.”

Family members said Howell enjoyed basketball and rapped using the name “Meachi.” Another cousin, Desiarell Howell, said Justus rapped about things he wanted to do with his life, which she said included someday attending medical school.

“He didn’t want (his family) to hurt money-wise. He wanted his family to succeed,” the cousin said.

Dennis Howell said that while the family has deep roots in Lake County, his nephew had recently moved to Waukegan from Wisconsin.

“He was on the path of getting back in school and getting his life in line. He was beginning to take the path to lead to a better life,” Dennis Howell said.

He declined to elaborate on his nephew’s past troubles.

The “past troubles” which they didn’t want to elaborate on appear to be rather extensive. He had previously been placed in a special school for students “who are at risk of extensive suspension and/or expulsion.” The fact that his relative described how he was working on getting back in school indicates that it may not have worked out well. But even if we leave his entire history out of the equation (as defenders always insist we must) the fact still remains that Peet has already admitted that the only reason Howell was there was to purchase an illegal handgun. Just keep that in mind as the media narrative unfolds on this one.

It will take time for this one to play out, but given the “shot in the back” description coming from the autopsy, expect the “Justice for Justuce” shirts to begin appearing shortly.