May 14, 2015 / 5:17 PM / 2 years ago

Fatal police shooting of black teen in Illinois ruled justified

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Prosecutors will not bring charges against a police officer in the northern Illinois town of Zion who shot and killed a black teenager in April, an official said on Thursday.

Lake County State’s Attorney Michael Nerheim said at a news conference that an investigation determined the shooting, which sparked protests and marches in the community 40 miles north of Chicago, was a justified use of lethal force.

Justus Howell, 17, was shot twice in the back. Police and witnesses said he was carrying a gun he had just stolen from another teenager in an illegal firearms sale. The gun went off as Howell and the other young man fought over it. Police were called by neighbors and Howell ran when the officers approached him, Nerheim said.

The shooting occurred at a time of tension around the United States over police use of deadly force against minorities. In recent months, cities from Baltimore to Ferguson, Missouri, also have seen protests and unrest over shootings, often of unarmed young men.

There were demonstrations in Madison, Wisconsin, this week after prosecutors ruled that a police officer would not be charged in the fatal shooting of an unarmed biracial teenager.

Cities from Baltimore to Ferguson, Missouri, also have seen protests and unrest over shootings, often of unarmed young men.

Nerheim expressed condolences to Howell’s family and said he understood they were unhappy with the investigation.

Officer Eric Hill, who shot Howell, is a nine-year veteran and is on administrative leave, but is expected to return to active duty soon, officials said.

“He acted within our department procedures, he responded appropriately ... The department at this point stands behind him,” Zion Police Chief Steve Dumyahn said at the news conference.

Dumyahn said the Zion police, like many departments around the country, are evaluating having officers use body cameras.

After violent unrest in Baltimore in late April, the chief prosecutor there brought criminal charges against six officers involved in the arrest of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black man who died from injuries sustained when he was detained.

Reporting by Fiona Ortiz; Editing by Bill Trott

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