Autistic Teen Lunged at Cops Twice With Steak Knife, Sources Say

Stephon Watts, 15, was shot by police in his Calumet City home last week

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    Family Photo
    Stephon Watts on Thanksgiving 2011

    A Calumet City teen shot by police in his home last week lunged at officers not once, as has been widely reported, but twice, two police sources close to the case told NBC Chicago Thursday.

    Furthermore, they said there is "indisputable evidence" that the knife wielded by 15-year-old Stephon Watts was not a butter knife, as the boy's family contends, but something more dangerous.

    "This was a nine-inch, black-handled, pointed, sharpened, steak knife," one of the police sources said. The sources wished to remain anonymous because of their involvement with the on-going investigation. 

    Father Grieves for Son Shot by Police

    [CHI] Father Grieves for Son Shot by Police
    Steven Watts disputes police account of what happened Feb. 1.

    Police were called to the Watts home, on the 500 block of Forsythe Avenue, on Feb. 1 after the autistic boy and his father reportedly got into an argument about computer use. There, sources said, Watts "lunged at the officer" and "sliced" the officer at the bottom of the basement stairs.

    The officer fell back and fired his weapon, the sources said. Watts then charged at the officer and sliced him again, and it's at that point the second officer fired another shot at the teen.

    Stephon's father, Steven Watts, disputes that version of events, however. 

    "Police are sadly mistaken," the man said, his frame frail as he battles stomach cancer. "All he had in his hand was a butter knife. A lousy butter knife."

    Watts' remarks Thursday are the first he's made since the death of his son. He said he's speaking now because he's "outraged."

    "I want people to know that I'm grieving. ... I want police to know that they really hurt me," he said. "I just called the police to help. That's all I did. I didn't call them for any other reason than to have them help me calm down my son. It led to his death."

    Calumet City Police Chief Edward Gilmore last week confirmed that police had been to the family home a number of times since June 2010. Ten of 12 visits, he said, were in regards to the teen.

    Gilmore said his officers were acting in self-defense, but as they did last week, community members expressed their anger. At a Calumet City Council meeting Thursday evening, several people called for a federal investigation into the officers' actions.

    The State Police Public Integrity Unit is investigating the incident. The findings of that investigation could be made public in about a week, a separate source said.

    "When we're done, comments will be made, but we don't want to impede their investigation," said Mitch Growe, the president of the Calumet City Fraternal Order of Police.

    In the interim, the pair of officers are on paid leave.

    The family has setup a website to follow developments in the story and to solicit donations to help with funeral and burial arrangements at JusticeForStephonWatts.com.

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