Officers Cleared in Death of Autistic Teen

Stephon Watts was shot dead in his home on Feb. 1

By BJ Lutz and Dick Johnson
|  Tuesday, Apr 17, 2012  |  Updated 10:37 PM CDT
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Parents of Slain Teen Stand by Their Story

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Stephon Watts on Thanksgiving 2011

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Parents of Slain Teen Stand by Their Story

Two officers placed on administrative leave following the February shooting of Stephon Watts were cleared Tuesday of all wrongdoing. There continues to be, however, two different versions of what sort of knife the teen was holding when police arrived at his home. Dick Johnson reports.
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Two officers placed on administrative leave following the February shooting of an autistic teen have been cleared off all wrongdoing.

The Cook County State's Attorney's office, in reviewing an investigation done by the Illinois State Police Public Integrity Task Force, indicated the officers did not use unnecessary force when they shot and killed Stephon Watts.

Police said Watts, 15, lunged at them with a steak knife and that they feared for their safety. A source close to the case at the time described it as "a nine-inch, black-handled, pointed, sharpened, steak knife."

The family disputed that. They said the teen was just holding a butter knife and that deadly force wasn't necessary. Watts' mother, Danelene Watts, said the knife her son was holding didn't at all resemble the knife shown in a photo released Tuesday by Calumet City police.

"My husband knows. I know. His brother knows what kind of knife it was.  We were there," she said.  "My son has been murdered by trained police officers. ... A great injustice was done to my baby."

The family had previously said officers used a Taser to control the boy on previous visits to the home, on the 500 block of Forsythe Avenue.

The boy's death sparked outrage from many in the community.

"It was a wrongful, unnecessary use of force, and it killed him without a chance," the Rev. Jesse Jackson, who came to the family's side, said a day after the boy's death.

Chief Edward Gilmore defended his officers' actions, saying they acted in self defense. In a statement Tuesday, he expressed condolences to Watts' family for their "tragic loss."

The family plans to speak out at a town hall meeting April 23.

Calumet City police released this photo of the knife they said Stephon Watts had in his hand when he lunged at officers on Feb. 1, 2012.


 

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