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Coroner: Teen Killed By Zion Police Shot Twice In Back

UPDATED: 6 p.m., 4/6/15

CHICAGO (CBS/STMW) -- Autopsy results released Monday afternoon say a Waukegan teen who was shot and killed by Zion police on Saturday was shot in the back.

The Lake County Coroner says 17-year-old Justus Howell was shot twice in the back and one of the bullets penetrated his liver and heart, WBBM Newsradio's Terry Keshner reports.

Saturday's shooting happened after a Zion officer responded to reports of an argument or fight and a possible gun shot.

According to a statement from the Zion Police Department, officers immediately administered medical assistance to the teen, who was transported to an area hospital, where he was pronounced dead. Police also said that they recovered a handgun from the scene.


Also Monday, authorities met with community leaders as a potentially volatile situation unfolded. The invitation-only meeting was held at the Christian Assembly of God Church, CBS 2's Jim Williams reports. Among the attendees were the Zion police chief and the Lake County state's attorney.

Representatives of the NAACP's local chapter also attended and promised to withhold judgment – for now.

"We're trying to make sure that we get all the facts and let the investigation take its course, and then the NAACP will make a decision based upon that," Jennifer Witherspoon said.

Zion Community activist Clyde McLemore says the shooting of Howell is reflects the uneasy relationship between Zion police and the African-American community.

"Black lives matter," McLemore says. "We just went through this with Ferguson (Mo.), and I have been saying that Zion is another Ferguson just waiting to explode."

The Lake County Major Crimes Task Force and the Lake County State's Attorney are investigating. WBBM has reached out to the Zion Police Department for comment.

Dozens of family and friends gathered Sunday at the scene of Saturday's shooting to remember Justus, whom they say was an aspiring rapper.

His mother, LaToya Howell, said Justus wanted to go to medical school to be a surgeon.

"Justus was a young man murdered by Zion police," she said. "As he was fleeing from police, they killed my son. He couldn't have been a threat if he was running."

Two witnesses said Howell was not armed at the time of the shooting.

Michael Dizzone and his wife live in a home directly across the street from where Howell was shot. Dizzone said his wife was looking out of her bedroom window when she saw and heard the officer shoot Howell twice.

"She saw him fall to the ground," Dizzone said. He said his wife told police what she saw and that she did not see a gun on or around Howell. "She was really upset."

Bobbie Vaughn, who lives nearby, said she heard two shots and began running toward the scene, following a police officer. When she arrived, she saw Howell on the ground.

"I heard the officer tell the other officer, 'I shot him,' " she said. "They were shaking him, but he didn't move. He was on his stomach, so they turned him over and the police officer I was with gave him CPR."

Vaughn said that she remained on the scene for quite some time and did not see police uncover a weapon.

"I didn't see a gun, no knife, nothing," she said.

LaToya Howell said her son would have celebrated his golden birthday on June 18, when they had plans for a big party. The party guests were planning to wear white and gold.

"He was on the path to becoming a man," she said. "He loved to rap and went by the name 'Lil' Meachi."

Howell's great aunt, LaDonnia Gilmore, of North Chicago, said she believed that an evil act was committed.

"Justus was a baby in the eyes of many," she said. "There are more babies dying than seniors. They don't even have a chance to carry out their careers. We want to make a statement that the police brutality must decrease."

Tyrece Branch, 17, whose father is engaged to Howell's mother, ran to the scene Saturday as soon as he heard that Justus, whom he considered his brother, was shot.

"I got a call that Meachi is on the floor and I was like, 'It can't be him,' " Branch said.

"I got real emotional, real angry," he said. "He's been in my life since I was 5 and we were real close."

The vigil was peaceful as the participants chanted, "Justice for Justus." Many sported T-shirts with Howell's picture and the same sentiment. Others just hugged and cried.

While most of the group was made up of family members and friends, some came just because they were angry about what happened to a member of their community.

"You can't keep killing our black children and not tell us why," said Vanessa Gibbs, of Zion. "When is this going to stop? I've heard too many of these stories and I'm tired."

(Source: Sun-Times Media Wire © Chicago Sun-Times 2015. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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