Autopsy shows police shooting victim had alcohol, marijuana in his system

The Waukegan teen who died in a police-involved shooting had small amounts of alcohol and marijuana in his body when he was killed, autopsy results released Tuesday showed.

Lake County Coroner Thomas Rudd also said 17-year-old Justus Howell's death was ruled a homicide. Howell was shot twice in the back by a nine-year Zion police veteran after a foot chase.

Lake County State's Attorney Michael Nerheim said Tuesday the investigation continues to determine whether the April 4 shooting was a “justifiable homicide.”

“This determination hinges on a complete evaluation of the facts and circumstances surrounding the incident,” Nerheim said in an email. “For those purposes, an independent investigation is necessary.”

Once the Lake County Major Crimes Task Force, and the Civil Rights Division of the FBI have concluded their work, “all of the facts and evidence will be reviewed to determine whether or not criminal charges are warranted,” he said.

Nerheim said a homicide is defined as any killing of a human being by another human being. Under that definition, he said, a homicide is not the same as a murder.

The police officer involved in the shooting has not been charged.

Police have said Howell was involved in a scuffle while trying to steal a handgun from a Lindenhurst resident during a street sale about 2 p.m. April 4.

Authorities said the fight broke out between Howell and Tramond Peet, 18, and a shot was fired. A neighbor heard the gunshot, saw the fighting and called police, authorities said.

When officers arrived, Howell ran from the scene and was later shot at 24th Street and Galilee. A handgun was recovered at the scene of the shooting, authorities said.

Howell was taken to Vista Medical Center East in Waukegan where he was pronounced dead at 2:38 p.m., authorities said.

Peet is charged with two counts of aggravated unlawful use of a weapon and is due in court June 22 for arraignment, court records show.

Rudd said Tuesday autopsy results showed Howell had a blood alcohol content of .035 and a small quantity of marijuana in his system.

George Filenko, commander of the Lake County Major Crimes Task Force, said officials are waiting for analysis of video evidence and other test results to be completed.

“We will get it done, and when the facts are clear, we will present our findings to the Lake County State's Attorneys Office for review,” Filenko said.

Howell's grandmother, Alice Howell, said she is withholding comment until she receives a final determination.

“When the investigation is complete, I hope the state's attorney's office will do the right thing,” she said.

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