- Associated Press - Friday, May 15, 2015

WAUKEGAN, Ill. (AP) - The mother of a black 17-year-old shot in the back and killed by a white police officer led a small but vocal group of demonstrators on a march through a suburban Chicago community on Friday, chanting and blowing whistles to express their anger that the officer won’t face charges.

Justus Howell’s mother, LaToya Howell, held aloft a placard that read, “Justice for Justus,” and at one point sat in the middle of a major thoroughfare, blocking traffic for about 15 minutes before continuing. Several police cars stopped nearby but officers didn’t attempt to force protesters off the street.

The rally started outside the Waukegan courthouse, which county officials closed early because they estimated more than 2,000 demonstrators could show up. As the protest began, however, there were fewer than 50.

Lake County State’s Attorney Michael Nerheim said Thursday that Eric Hill, a police officer in nearby Zion, was justified in shooting the teen twice in the back on April 4 because Howell was carrying a loaded gun and had started to turn toward Hill. Howell was allegedly involved in an illegal gun sale minutes before and had fled, with Hill chasing after him.

Hill feared for his own life and for the life of a fellow officer, Nerheim said.

Before Friday’s march, Howell’s mother disputed the findings. She told reporters a video that prosecutors offered as evidence did not show her son had a gun or had turned threateningly.

“He was fleeing from the scene,” she said. “There was no reason to use deadly force.”

When Waukegan Mayor Wayne Motley stopped on a corner to watch the protesters, one approached and asked if he thought he saw Justus Howell turn in the video. Motley responded, “Yes, I did. … It was a thorough investigation.”

“You want me to turn around so you can shoot me?” Howell’s mother, standing nearby, shouted at him.

Other protesters carried signs that read, “Stop Murder by Police.” But LaToya Howell said she wasn’t blaming the police as a whole.

“I’m not saying that all of them are bad. But we need to get rid of the bad (ones),” she said.

A lawyer for the Howells, Matthew Dudley, said Friday that the family is considering filing a civil lawsuit alleging that police violated Justus’ constitutional rights.

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Follow Michael Tarm on Twitter at https://twitter.com/mtarm


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