Outrage Growing After Teen Killed By Calumet City Cops

Updated 02/02/12 – 6:14 p.m.

CALUMET CITY, Ill. (CBS) — Relatives and friends of a 15-year-old autistic boy who was shot and killed by police officers on Wednesday were voicing their outrage by staging a protest outside of the police station Thursday night.

Local clergy, as well as some civic leaders, and autism support groups also joined demonstration to call for an independent probe of the shooting death of Stephon Watts, who suffered from Asperger’s Syndrome, a high-functioning form of autism.

“I do believe race played an important part of this – that if this had been done in a white community, the officers would have had a different attitude about how they approached this child, knowing that this child had autism,” said David Lowery, Jr., president of the NAACP’s Chicago Far South Side Branch.

Stephon was shot and killed by two police officers Wednesday morning after police were called to his family’s home because he had become aggressive.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Bob Roberts reports

Police said he had cut one officer with a knife and was acting in a threatening manner, so officers shot him in fear of their own safety. But Stephon’s family said he was only holding a butter knife and that, in previous encounters, police had been able to subdue him with a stun gun, so officers could have done the same thing on Wednesday.

Others who joined the protest with the family Thursday night were the Rev. Jesse Jackson and Calumet City 4th Ward Ald. Brian Wilson.

Jackson said he has reached out to Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez and the U.S. Justice Department to call for an outside investigation of what he called “cold-blooded, wrongful and unnecessary use of force.”

Jackson said police could have grabbed Stephon and held him to bring him under control or subdued him with a stun gun, rather than resorting to deadly force.

“Why shoot him point-blank range with two bullets?” Jackson said.

He also said that, by the time police showed up at the house in response to the family’s call for help, Stephon had calmed down. The family told police they no longer needed assistance, but Jackson claimed officers forced their way into the basement and, when Stephon saw police, he became agitated again.

“We know that the police who did this must now face the challenge of justice,” Jackson said.

Wilson also said that officers should not have shot Stephon, given that police had been called to the Watts home at least 10 previous times when Stephon had become aggressive and had been able to calm him down or subdue him with a stun gun, rather than needing to use deadly force.

“We want to wrap our arms around the family and let them know that we believe this was a disgrace. Their child should not have died yesterday,” Wilson said.

Police officers shot and killed Stephon after he lunged at them with a knife. The family said it was a butter knife and police would only say it was a “kitchen knife.”

“Less lethal forms of restraint should have been used yesterday and that’s what we want the message to be,” Wilson said.

Lowery said authorities should make sure there is a thorough, independent investigation of the shooting.

“My heart goes out to that family and we want to stand with this family and make sure that this is not swept under the rug, like it’s usually done when white officers kill a black child,” Lowery said.

Debra Vines, executive director and founder of The Answer Inc., an Autism awareness and support agency primarily serving families of color, said many families her group serves have said they fear that could have been them.

“That’s the first thing they were saying. That’s the first thing I thought. That could have been Jason.”

Vines’ son Jason was 11 years old when police were called to help, because of a medication imbalance. Jason is now 24 and thriving.

“Unfortunately, this was a tragic situation; but maybe what’ll happen is that they’ll start paying more attention to our community of people; they’ll start being more sympathetic to our community,” Vines said.

The Answer Inc. also provides training for police to educate them on how to handle calls involving people with Autism.  The organization is having a conference on Saturday March 24 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Rock of Ages Baptist Church in Maywood.  The event is called, “Celebrating Differences Autism and Special Needs Conference.”  The conference will have several workshops, including one for law enforcement called “To Serve and Protect.”

Admission and registration are free.

In response to the planned protest, the assistant chief of the Calumet City Police Department said everyone coming has the right to have a peaceful assembly and to express their opinions.

The two officers who shot Stephon have been placed on paid administrative leave, and Illinois State Police are investigating the shooting.

  • billydrewfirecrew

    to say they would not have shot a white kid under the same situation is absurb the cops dont say the kid is white so lets run for our lives

    • Areyousurprised?

      This is another example of a cop with an IQ under 100. He probably did a few tours and now he is back in the states to ”protect and serve”.I’m sure he did not loose a minutes sleep last night.

      • Bob

        You’re a fool.

      • Anglo-Saxon

        Nor would I have!

    • Dad Fourkids

      Actually, there have been numerous occasions where autistic, MR or other mentally challenged white kids have been beaten, shot or otherwise killed by cops who approached the situation with the attitude of exerting control over a violent individual. I am not saying that race did NOT factor into this situation, that remains to be determined. But I am saying that neurolgical diversity remains the last area of our society where discriminatory treatment continues to get justified without any reprisals. As the father of an autistic child it troubles me deeply that this is the case. My heart and prayers goes out to this family, and regardless of the outcome it is my sincere hope that they are able to find closure so they may overcome their loss. I do not know whether they are Christians, but I believe that Stephon is in a better place now, where his Asperger’s is not a hobbling condition.

    • jimbob47

      name the last time you remember a mentally chanllenged white kid shot by police?

      • good_shoot

        It was a good shoot. The psychiatrists are guilty or liable for malpractice.

      • Fed Up With Uneducated People Who Don't Understand.

        The “police” had absolutely no reason to shoot this kid……They need to stop thinking with their guns. It’s not like any sort of medication will cure autism, even the richest (at best) could only provide therapy. What’s the catch? Therapy is usually 40 hours per week, and most therapists aren’t cheap.That being said- Rebel Boy, let me know how well you could do working a full time job (maybe two), maintain a home, pay the bills, pay someone’s full time salary, and care for an autistic child. Just to let you know, it’s not easy taking care of an autistic child- everything needs to be done a certain way, look a certain way, food on plates can’t be mixed together, a strict schedule must be followed, and if that can’t happen, it’s a bunch of meltdowns. It’s uneducated people like you that I despise.

      • Voice of Reason

        2009….Dyer, Indiana….Briar Ridge Gated Community….Rich White Kid…. Family members in both cases could not control their troubled sons.

        I don’t understand why this family always called the police on this kid. They are calling armed officers. There is always the variable of someone getting hurt during a violent situation.

        BTW…..Both Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg are said to have Asperger Autism.

      • rebel boy

        probably never happened because a white family took proper procedures and medical care for that person. Good parenthood prevents this ????Maybe the family should have invested in a stun gun along with im sure a real gun they have. They should have called JESSIE to contain him

      • DDavis

        There have been numerous teenage boys with AUTISM killed buy police when they’ve been called for HELP. It has more to do with AUTISM than race but since Stephon Watts was black, I suppose the race issue would be brought up. But don’t think this hasn’t happened to white kids, it has. One of them was Raymond Lee Mitchell back in 2006 read here:

      • Guest

        The media seldom mentions the race of those involved in a situation like this. The only reason we know this guy was black was because Jesse Jackson was called in to get a large settlement for the family in the guise of preventing it in the future.

      • Anglo-Saxon

        @Guest, I think it’s safe to say, they most likely will not get a dime. Their kid attacked police officers with a knife. The police responded to deadly force with deadly force. These people should not get one penny of my tax dollars. Their son is soley responsible for his own demise. Police acted well within the law, regarding the use of deadly force. If they were to get my tax dollars, it would be a major injustice!!!!!!!

  • billydrewfirecrew

    the whole truth will never be known i don’t trust the police but was it a knife or butter knife

  • Dave

    Ok leave out the fact that this kid suffers from autism and that he is a 15 year old. Any one with the intend to harm another, that person has a right to protect them selves. In this case the police exercised a judgement call in one second. It doesn’t take long for a person with a knife to be able to lunge forward to cut someone. I think there is more to the story but the police in this case made a split second decesion t use the neccesary force to protect themselves and as of right now I believe they made the right choice. Be mad all you want at what I said but don’t judge anyone until you are put in that postion.

    • starzzguitar

      You are an idiot. Do you mean to tell me that a large policeman armed with guns, batons, stun guns, pepper spray etc. and BACKUP are AFRAID of an autistic 15 year old boy? Armed with a butter knife? Or any kind of knife? If someone has a knife, you get away from them. I can tell you have never been around an autistic person. They can be very unpredictable and sometimes unruly. They can also be quiet and sweet. They live in their heads and often don’t know what is going on around them. As an officer of the law you should have to take this into consideration before blowing someone, a human being away. Let’s kill blind people because they can’t see, deaf people because they can’t hear commands, and autistic people because they can’t reason like you and me. It’s okay with you, isn’t it, MURDER? Just fine. You’re sick.

      • Anglo-Saxon

        You are Wrong, when confronted with deadly force, an officer will use deadly force!

      • John_B

        About all we know of the confrontation is that it happened in a basement. How cramped was the space? Was the kid charging an officer? he did get close enough to cut him. Was he going for one of the officers guns? We may never hear the whole story but we sure will here how cops murder for no reason for weeks to come.

      • Dave


        I want you to do go this link. Tell me that it wasn’t justifed. This kid was 6’0 230 pounds and in no way a small kid. It doesn’t matter what kind of knife it was, it can still injury or kill. I have been around a lot of autistic people and the only thing I can agree with you on is that they are nice and sweet but you just said it ” They can be very unpredictable and sometimes unruly” that was apparent when he cut an officer and was going after the other one. Put yourself in the officers shoes but maybe if I was your partner and he was going after you, I would do the same to protect your and the innocent.

      • Dan in Twin Cities

        Seriously! As I said elsewhere, we had stricter rules of engagement in Baghdad! Listen, I’ve got that 6′ 2″ 290# , mentally unstable 15-year-old in my house. I don’t even like him! I consider him a danger and a menace. (He has told his therapist that he wishes I’d die. [Feeling’s mutual BTW.] ) But even if I called the police because I was in danger, unless he is pointing a gun or wielding an axe or similar weapon at them there is no reason for that pistol to leave the holster.
        That weapon should be a police officer’s last resort, not his first. I just have a real hard time imagining any exigence in this case that justified drawing a pistol

      • Anglo-Saxon

        @Dan, Have you ever seen the amount of damage a knife can cause in a matter of seconds? I would have reacted exactly the same way the officers did.

  • barb

    Guess the officers were out sick on training day and also forgot how to use the stun gun the one had on him. This was senseless and the family has a good lawsuit ahead of them. Hope they win.

    • Anglo-Saxon

      Police do not use stun guns against deadly force!

    • John_B

      More like a lottery ticket. Maybe that’s why they continued to call the cops to take control of the child.

  • Just Axin

    If you have a person 5’10, 220lbs coming at you with a knife (who already injured another cop) I’m gonna take his a$$ down. I don’t care if he’s got autism, schizo, head lice or what, my life is in danger and I will use necessary force to deal with a knife. Of course Jess Jacka$$ will be there! He won’t be spending time with his illegitimate daughter cause the cameras will be in Cal City. Good job, cops. You save us hundreds of thousands in state sponsored medical care, Link card payments, future children and crimes, etc.

    • Afro

      Right on just Axin I can’t belive how many Jesse Jackson there are in the world, just listen to this garbage they are spewing about these cops.I guaran gawdam tee you if the father himself were so afraid he had had to call armed police officers to the house, this bull of a teenager was out of control, in a mad fit violent rage and more than willing to kill these officers.

    • Dave

      Thank you for actually knowing the whole thing. Everyone just thinks that since it was a kid and he has autism, that the police are at fault. Sounds like the parents just wanted to call the cops so they can tazer the kid and that be that because they said themselves that too. People just don’t realize the dangers of police.

  • TayTay

    Does any one here know what the deadly force triangle is?

    • John_B

      so you want a cop to try and shoot person flailing about in the shoulder or leg when in a confined space, risking hitting your partner or yourself due to a ricochet? No thanks. And any bullet wound could be lethal at that distance.

    • k

      i dont think they do..they really don t have a clue

  • THEE Yard Ape

    Suprise, suprise!! I have to wonder if this protest would be occuring if the kid was white???

    • Anglo-Saxon

      Jesse Jackleg is the biggest piece of sh!t racist there is.

  • 4grandma

    This “boy” has prompted at lest 10 calls to 911 and dad is afraid of him? Well, he’s not some innocent child. Cops probably had all the right in the world. Until you stand side by side with the police, DON’T JUDGE THEM !! They have the scariest job in the world. This boy probably would have maimed/killed someone in the future.

    • Philip B Kirschner

      Grandma, did you know children and adults with autism or aspergers have a different perception than we do? There are simmilarities in aspergers and autism on the optical level. With proper medication, he could have lived a close to normal life.With training and a proper program, he could have went onto college. Take your opinionated and uneducated viewpoints and shove them.

      • Anglo-Saxon

        The fact that he had autism is completely irrelevant! He attacked police with a knife! How can you be so stupid?

    • starzzguitar

      Hey, I will judge them all I want. They are just people. People make mistakes. Cops make mistakes all the time. And then there are other cops that are professional and well trained. These cops have just given good cops a bad name, again. And I see some of you have no respect for human life whatsoever. The punishment for being born autistic should not be the death penalty. I am sick of the “don’t judge until you stand in their shoes” argument. I think you just like hearing about people getting killed for no good reason.

      • Anglo-Saxon

        You are wrong! The police did EXACTLY what my tax dollars paid them to do!

      • Pamala E.

        For no good reason? No, killed for wielding a knife.

    • Dan in Twin Cities

      Please see my reply to Dave and starzzguitar above. This story is especially compelling to me because I LIVE with virtually the same kid. This actually COULD happen in MY HOUSE. And I stand by that judgement. Unless he is pointing a gun or wielding some other kind of large, deadly weapon, there is no reason for that pistol to leave its holster.
      And deflecting blame to the family doesn’t wash either because state and local laws have effectively dis-empowered parents from controlling kids like this. If you have a normal kid who loves and respects his parents, normal means of discipline are adequate. But when you got a kid like this extraordinary means are sometimes necessary. But something less than deadly force.

  • ATX Andy

    What if the taser would’ve killed him? Can you imagine the sh!t storm that would’ve erupted if this cut up cop would’ve tried to protect both of their lives by tazing him and it stopped his heart? It happens all the time. Just like like Jesse showing up when he can stir the pot. It’s unfortunate the BABY SITTER had to shoot the kid she was called to look after when the parents were unable to care for him themselves. I have to agree with “Just Axin”. I would love to see what the projected savings will be to the taxpayers. They had already been there 10 times…

  • docpsych34

    Cops will kill anyone black or white. If the right cop has any reason to use his gun when he’s angry, he’ll use it. There are many studies which show that far more people are injured and killed by cops having guns than people saved by those guns. Every cop does not need to be carrying a gun, in years gone by they carried sticks and whistles and fewer cops were killed then than now. Cops should not carry guns on a regular basis. Society would be much safer.

    • xedge

      Cops dont need guns? Wow that’s smart thinking let’s just disarm everyone but the criminals.

      • docpsych34

        If the cops had their way, only criminals would have guns. They don’t want civilians to have guns. Explain for me how a cop with a gun does me any good if I’m attacked and killed in my home. Cops guns don’t save as many people as they kill. Tell me some incidents where a cop with a gun actually saved someone. I’d like to hear that story.

  • Bill

    docpsych is insane. The part about cops carrying “sticks and whistles” is just plain hilarious. The dude is out to lunch.

    • docpsych34

      Cops scream bloody murder when they can’t have the power to kill. But, see how they act when the citizen wants to carry. Then it’s a completely different story. You just need to look at history, if you can read. The British don’t regularly carry guns and they have far fewer citizens murdered by cops than we have murdered by cops in the US.

      • John_B

        I was referring to the shooting on the bridge. I admit I do not remember as much of the details as I should but there was a resent ruling reported by Reuters http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/01/29/us-neworleans-police-mistrial-idUSTRE80S00U20120129

      • Anglo-Saxon

        @John_B, Those were all justified shootings. There should have been far more when the animals started to loot people’s businesses!!!

      • John_B

        The only murders by cops I have heard about in a while was in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina

      • xedge

        docpsych34 .There are very few murders by cops in the US. And its not up to the cops if you can carry a gun its a law made by politicians cops just enforce the law. If you like the gun laws there you should should move there. you don’t seem very smart i doubt your doing much good in the US.

  • Pastor

    Let’s just pray for the family and the police officers

  • Will

    does Jesse Jack@ss know that the officers that shot him were black?!

    • lol

      No cuz if he did then he wouldn’t be there.

    • xedge

      Jesse jack@ass understands that the white man has turned black police officer racist against their own race lol

  • tired of it all

    The parents knew what to expect from this boy, and knew of his increasing aggression.

    If it was ongoing for two years, they could have institutionalized their son long before this, and not kept calling the police to come and deal with their problems.

    • marg1

      If he was behaving like this at 15, what would he be like at 16, 17, 18…? Just asking.

      As a member of the village that is supposed to be raising this child, and all other children–(according to Hillary) I for one, do not want people like this in school with my children. I do not want them behind the wheel of a car.

      I believe the only solution is to have safe institutions for these people.

      This is a real tragedy that could have been avoided, but I don’t blame the police.

    • Dan in Twin Cities

      @tired of it all: they could have institutionalized their son long before this, and not kept calling the police to come and deal with their problems.

      It ain’t that easy, believe me. I am living it.

  • Linda Elsey

    That pompas a$$ jesse jackson is such a hypocrite. You never hear him say anything about all the blacks out there killing innocent people day & night. He needs to go check on his illegitimate kids.

    • Anglo-Saxon

      Exactly, Linda. Until J. Jackleg starts condemning his own people for their vicious behavior, he has absolutely no credibility whatsoever!!!

  • The Bruce

    Bravo, folks. I’m amazed how many of you have anointed yourselves judge, jury and executioner based on what can (at best) be described as an incomplete news article.

  • Renate

    Shooting him in the leg would have done the trick, if shooting was even neccessary!

    • x

      Yeah right or maybe the could have shot the knife out of his hand. When your life’s in danger you shoot to kill. You might be right that might have stopped him might have not would you want to risk your life to find out

      • John_B

        docpsych34, you are one seriously messed up person, If all a cop had to defend himself with was a rolled up news paper you would complain.

      • docpsych34

        That’s why cops shouldn’t have guns. Cops wouldn’t put themselves in danger if they thought they’d get hurt. Cops kill people because they can, and get away with it. If cops need to pack guns all the time should everyone who may be confronted with a “butter knife” be packing. Cops would be the first ones saying that’s not necessary. Why are cops always needing deadly force but everyone else doesn’t. It’s time we got rid of the “Police State”. I worry a lot less about some sick kid than I do about some trigger happy authoritarian “Bull”.

  • Scott Aspen

    Police lie all the time……..

    • Adam

      and criminals don’t?

  • nobody

    the shooting was justified, the average human can from a stop, run 7 yards and stab someone in a second, it takes about just as long for to draw and fire a handgun, that means in their driveway or home where the shooting probably took place the officer has almost no time to think, they either draw and shoot, or risk dieing, the taser is also not an option as most police departments have the officers carry it on the opposite side of their body so they don’t accidentally draw their gun when they mean to draw their taser(like what happened in the BART train station shooting in 2009), this also makes it take longer to draw the taser, also shooting for the leg is not an option and anyone who says it is has never handled a gun before, try shooting as small target like that while its moving and your hands are shaking from the adrenaline from being in a situation like that, life isn’t a like movies

    • docpsych34

      If combat Marines have to get permission from their superiors to fire on the enemy why should cops be running around playing Judge and Jury shooting 15 year old Special Ed kids with butter knives? It’s called rules of engagement. Cops should not be allowed to carry deadly weapons unless it has been predetermined that shooting someone is absolutely necessary. This jack boot thug “cowboy” mentality needs to stop.

      • nobody

        it doesn’t matter what kind of knife it was, it was sharp enough that the suspect already cut another officer the with it, also the same rules of engagement that have gotten people in the military killed? do you expect the cop to just do nothing while they are stabbed to death?

  • Bonsai

    What did the family really expect to happen? They called the cops on a black teen. The cops were probably white ear veterans who are used to killing people. So this is probably the 20,000th case of people calling 911 to get someone killed by trigger happy gunmen.

    The good news is that their problems with the kid are no over and they can all enjoy peace and quiet without having to worry about the kid growing up to be a problem adult.

    So everyone should be happy and put away the phony outrage. The parents got what they wanted; the cops got to kill someone without any reprecussions; and the commentators get to act pompous.

  • Guapo

    Why do you keep calling the Cops to control your freaking kid???!!!!

    What did you expect?

    Time after time after time! Geez!

    Well they handled the situation for you now, didn’t they??!

    Guess you won’t be needing to call them any more, plus you’ll get a sizable payout too, very Machiavellian.

    • Afro


      ikaw pangit talaga lol

      taga saan ka?

      • Curious

        Hey, Afro. Is that Klingon?

    • Dan in Twin Cities


      Nothing like the insights of a hard-hearted ignoramus to foster intelligent debate.

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  • More Colors in the Rainbow than BLACK JESSE!

    just a butter knife?…put me in that small ass hallway with Jesse Jackson and a butter knife and i’ll be glad to show his punk ass what damage i can do with that m*therf*cker!!! so as long as it’s a butter knife you can go at a cop….sick of f-cking excuses.
    ALSO if the child “calmed down” why the f*ck didn’t the parents take the knife away from him before the cops arrived?? great parenting, guess your going to have to have another child to compensate for the loss of welfare!!!! Hey Jesse for someone that is so against racism you are one of the most racist people i’ve ever seen in my life!!

    • Jim

      You are correct!


    The fact the police were called suggests the parents felt an element of danger; the officers had a split second to make a decision that others will judge for weeks and years to come. Suggesting the officers looked forward to shooting someone only highlights the ignorance of the posters on here. Taking a human life is something they will carry with them for the rest of their lives. Law Enforcement has the highest suicide rate of any other career, this is largely due to the thankless job these men and women carry out so we can sit at home, in relative safety, and pass judgement.

    • Adam

      This is true! The idea that a cop would, “murder” someone that they preceived as no real threat is disgusting. In an instant it is very difficult to tell the difference between a, “butter knife” and any other knife. This was a young man who was out of control, who attempted to use the knife against a police officer. I know that if my spouse or family member was attacked by a violent, non-compliant person with a knife I wouldn’t want them to hesitate to inspect what type of knife it was. Easy to look back now to say what should have been done. I feel for the family and the cops that were involved.

  • Gator

    173 Law enforcement officers killed in the life of duty during 2011. They have to defend themselves from people using any type of weapon. Its easy to say take a bullet or knife for society we don’t value your life or service.

    • docpsych34

      I’ll use your facts, how many of the 173 were killed with “Butter Knives” and how many were killed in those stupid “High speed Chases”? Now, since you have the facts, how many people did cops kill without a trial or by accident? I’ll bet it was a heck of a lot more that 173. Everyone would be much safer if citizens had their own protection and cops had to get permission to use “deadly force” as do Combat Marines.

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