Officials: Zion police shoot man taking photos of schools

  • School buses leave New Tech High Zion-Benton East where a man, who had a realistic-looking pellet gun and was wearing a tactical-style vest, was seen taking pictures. The man was later shot and killed during a physical struggle with police.

    School buses leave New Tech High Zion-Benton East where a man, who had a realistic-looking pellet gun and was wearing a tactical-style vest, was seen taking pictures. The man was later shot and killed during a physical struggle with police. Gilbert R. Boucher II | Staff Photographer

  • Investigators with the Lake County Major Crimes Task Force work at the scene of a police-involved shooting in Zion on Wednesday.

    Investigators with the Lake County Major Crimes Task Force work at the scene of a police-involved shooting in Zion on Wednesday. Gilbert R. Boucher II | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 1/7/2016 11:39 AM

A 38-year-old man who was shot and killed Wednesday morning by Zion police had a realistic-looking pellet gun and was wearing a tactical-style vest with homemade metal inserts, authorities said.

The man, identified only as being white, was shot during a struggle after a foot chase by local officers who were responding to a report of a suspicious person taking pictures at schools, police said. Police tried lifesaving measures at the scene, but the man later died at Vista East Hospital in Waukegan, authorities said.

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Why the man was wearing a protective vest and why he was taking pictures near two schools were among the details withheld by authorities as the investigation continues. The man's house was being searched at the same time a news conference was held Wednesday afternoon at Zion police headquarters, but where he lived or other circumstances of the shooting were not disclosed.

Christopher Covelli, spokesman for the Lake County Major Crimes Task Force, which investigates police-involved shootings, said the man was not being identified pending notification of next of kin. An autopsy is scheduled for 9 a.m. Thursday. No one else was in custody or thought to be connected with the situation, he added.

"Intent and state of mind are all things being investigated," Covelli said. "Obviously, somebody walking around with body armor is suspicious."

The task force was called by Zion police about 8:45 a.m., he said. Two Zion officers had responded to the area of 22nd Street and Bethesda Boulevard, which is near Lakeview Elementary School, an early childhood building for District 6 and New Tech High Zion-Benton East.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Police found the man and chased him on foot for an unspecified distance. A "physical struggle" with police followed, during which the man was shot, Covelli said, but he would not reveal how many times or the location of those shots.

Covelli said police tried to use a stun gun on the man. "During the struggle at least one of the officers deployed their Taser, but it was ineffective," he said.

Covelli said the man had a gun that was "collected" at the scene.

"At first glance, this gun appeared to be a real firearm. However, after further examination, it's been determined it was probably an Airsoft gun," Covelli said.

Zion Police Chief Steve Dumyahn said an Airsoft gun is a "replica-looking" gun that fires hard plastic pellets. Officials did not say whether the pellet gun was fired during the chase or struggle.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Covelli said investigators determined the vest worn by the man was a "tactical-style vest with homemade metal inserts inside of the vest." He said there was more than one insert but did not provide more detail about the vest.

He would not say whether police had prior contact with the man.

"It is unnerving. I think a situation like this would scare any parent," Covelli said.

Schools were in session at the time and, for a while, were on soft lockdown. Covelli said there had been no reported threats to Zion schools in recent weeks. Investigators also were reviewing video from the schools, he added.

The two Zion officers involved are on paid administrative leave pending the results of the investigation, authorities said. They were not identified. One officer was said to have sustained minor injuries in the scuffle, but those were not detailed.

On April 4, a Zion police officer shot and killed Justus Howell, 17, after he ran from officers while trying to illegally purchase a gun.

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