DuPage deputy cleared in fatal shooting of Villa Park teen in January
A DuPage County sheriff's deputy was justified in the New Year's Day fatal shooting of a 17-year-old Villa Park-area teen who the officer believed was armed with a knife, DuPage County State's Attorney Robert Berlin ruled Thursday.
Berlin made his decision after a review of the investigation conducted by state police into the shooting of Trevon Johnson at his family's home near Villa Park. Johnson was shot four times as deputies attempted to arrest him for attacking a family member.
Berlin said Deputy Scott Kuschell, who fired five times and struck Johnson four times, "was completely justified in his actions and no criminal charges will be filed against the officer."
Kuschell, a 14-year veteran of the department and nine-year member of the department's SWAT team, has previously received the department's employee of the year award and lifesaving award.
Sgt. Robert Harris said the ruling brings some closure to the department.
"It was an unfortunate set of circumstances. A life was lost," Harris said. "But we're happy this chapter has come to a close."
About 11:26 p.m. Jan. 1, Kuschell, a 14-year veteran of the department, responded to the first of three 9-1-1 calls of a domestic violence incident in progress, placed from the home by Johnson's sister, Ricquia Jones.
Jones, her brother and another person in the house told dispatchers Johnson was breaking things and "going crazy," had shoved and struck at least one person, and had grabbed a knife and glass. Apparent gunshots were heard more than five minutes after Trevon's brother made the second call from inside the townhouse in the Brandywine subdivision, at Ardmore Avenue and Roosevelt Road.
As Kuschell arrived and entered the home, Johnson leapt toward him. According to Berlin's report, Kuschell also noticed that Johnson had a 3- to 4-inch-long pointed "dull gray metal knifelike object in his right hand which was raised above his head." The item was later determined to be a piece of a broken sports trophy with a marble base.
According to the report, Kuschell ordered Johnson to "put it down" but Johnson kept coming toward him. Johnson then threw the trophy toward the deputy, who then opened fire, believing he and others were in extreme danger.
Johnson was pronounced dead at 12:05 a.m. Jan. 2. Toxicology reports showed he had THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, in his system at the time of his death.
"When (Johnson) refused clear and audible commands to 'put it down' by the responding deputy and instead lunged at the deputy with a deadly weapon, a trophy with a marble base, and then threw the trophy at the deputy with such force that the trophy broke into two pieces, the deputy was confronted with an imminent unlawful threat of deadly force," Berlin wrote. "Given the violent actions of (Johnson), his refusal to obey police commands along with his actions of thrusting and then throwing the trophy at the deputy, the deputy acted lawfully and was justified in using deadly force by discharging his weapon in order to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or other residents of the home."
Kuschell has been performing administrative duties while waiting for the investigation to be completed. Harris said he will soon be "reintegrated" into the patrol division.
In a seven-page memo Berlin sent to Sheriff John Zaruba, outlining his ruling, Berlin said Kuschell should be commended for his courage and professionalism during a dangerous situation. Berlin also offered sympathies and condolences to Johnson's family in the same memo.
Johnson's family spokesman, the Rev. Alfonzo Singletary, declined to comment on the ruling Thursday afternoon, saying the family had not been contacted about it.