A black teenager killed by police outside of Chicago over the weekend was shot twice in the back after attempting to steal an illegal handgun, officials and local media said on Monday.
The Zion Police Department said in a statement that 17-year-old Justus Howell met with another teenager to buy the gun before trying to wrestle it away. The seller, 18-year-old Tramond Peet whose account was the basis of the police statement, said one round was fired during the struggle.
Police said officers responded to the area and chased Howell, who still had the gun, before shooting and killing him. Police said a weapon was recovered from the scene.
The Chicago Tribune newspaper reported the Lake County Coroner’s Office said that Howell was killed by two gunshot wounds to the back – one piercing his heart, spleen and liver, and the other striking his right shoulder.
Howell was African-American, according to pictures published on Twitter and broadcast by local media.
Zion police said they were aware of the coroner’s findings, but added they could not comment until they had received a complete report from the pathologist.
“The Zion Police Department has no desire to defame the deceased,” police said over why they detailed the events leading up to the shooting. “At the same time we are aware of the public’s need to know.”
Many took to social media to vent frustration at the fatal police shooting of another black suspect and to pay respects to Howell using the hashtag #JusticeForJustus.
The shooting comes as tensions remain high over police violence against blacks and other minorities in the wake of high-profile killings in Ferguson, Missouri and New York City, which sparked waves of months-long protest nationwide.
Howell’s family, quoted by the Tribune, said he was an aspiring rapper who dreamed of attending medical school despite a troubled past, and disputed that Howell was armed when he was shot.
Peet was arrested and charged with two counts of aggravated unlawful use of a weapon, police said.
(Reporting by Curtis Skinner in San Francisco; Editing by Michael Perry)