CHICAGO (CBS) — Lake County prosecutors announced an investigation has determined a Zion police officer was justified when he shot and killed 17-year-old Justus Howell last month.
Identifying the officer publicly for the first time, Lake County State’s Attorney Mike Nerheim said Officer Eric Hill fired at Howell “in fear for his life,” after Howell ignored repeated commands to drop a handgun he was holding in his right hand.
Nerheim said Hill would not face criminal charges for the shooting. He said at least four independent witnesses saw Howell running away from Hill with a gun in his hand, and refusing Hill’s orders to stop and drop the weapon.
Zion police have said Hill shot Howell twice in the back on April 4, near 24th and Galilee, after he allegedly ran down a street with a gun he’d stolen from another man.
An autopsy determined Howell was shot twice in the back, and his death was ruled a homicide, but that ruling does not determine whether the officer’s actions were criminal, just that the death was the result of injuries caused by the intentional acts of another person.
Nerheim used maps and surveillance video to illustrate what happened when Howell was shot. He said, while it’s difficult to see on surveillance video, Howell turned slightly toward Hill when the officer shot him.
“Officer Hill provided Howell ample opportunity to drop the weapon, and only fired when he felt that his life, and the life of his fellow officer, was in danger,” he said.