Police: 2 Zion men stole guns to avenge Justus Howell's death
Two Zion men are held in Lake County jail for stealing 55 guns from a Beach Park gun shop in what they told authorities was a plot to get revenge for a police-involved fatal shooting in Zion, prosecutors said Tuesday.
Lawrence Taylor and Clarence Williams Jr., both 18 and from Zion, were charged with stealing rifles, shotguns and handguns on two trips to 5 Star Firearms on Sheridan Road, Assistant State's Attorney Reginald Mathews said.
The Lake County state's attorney's office is also investigating criminal charges against a 17-year-old who, Mathews said, was part of the plot. Those charges are not official until the minor appears before a judge in Lake County juvenile court.
During police questioning, Taylor and Williams were identified as members of a street gang in Zion, and they told police they intended to keep most of the firearms to retaliate against the Zion Police Department for the April 4 officer-involved shooting death of Justus Howell, Mathews said.
Mathews said investigators contacted the Zion Police Department regarding the statements.
"We are still investigating to see how valid the statement is," he said. "But since it was discussed among the trio, we wanted to take the proactive step to get the information out to the Zion PD and other law enforcement agencies to be aware."
Taylor, Williams and the juvenile face initial counts of burglary, Mathews said, and Williams also faces charges of aggravated possession of a stolen firearm. The case is under investigation and more charges are expected, Mathews said. Taylor is held on $750,000 bail, and Williams is held on $500,000 bail.
The street value of the guns taken was about $30,000.
The three went to the gun shop on the 41000 block of Sheridan Road about 11 p.m. May 31 to steal the weapons, Mathews said. While Taylor was a lookout, Williams entered the shop and stole firearms from the display cases and off the walls. He left the store and the three drove to Taylor's house in Zion, Mathews said.
About five hours later, they returned to the gun store, where Williams and Taylor entered the store and emerged with more weapons and drove away, Mathews said.
Each time they entered the store, they were caught on video surveillance, Mathews said.
Police reviewed a copy of the surveillance footage, and through a tip they learned where the guns were, Mathews said. Police obtained a search warrant and stopped Taylor while he was driving with a stolen AR-17 rifle and a hand gun.
Mathews said another search warrant was issued for Taylor's house and more stolen guns were found. During questioning, Taylor identified Williams and the juvenile as his conspirators, Mathews said.
Officials are investigating whether the three had any connection to the 17-year-old Howell.
Howell was shot and killed by veteran officer Eric Hill during a foot chase in Zion. Authorities said Howell was running with a hand gun when he turned back to the officers and looked to be pointing the gun. Hill feared for his life and the lives of fellow officers and opened fire, authorities said.
After a lengthy investigation, Lake County State's Attorney Mike Nerheim ruled the shooting justified in May. That led to small protests in front of the Lake County Government Center in Waukegan in the days that followed.
Future court dates for Taylor and Williams -- and the juvenile offender -- are unknown at this time.