A 75-year-old licensed concealed-carry gun owner shot and killed a 14-year-old Chicago boy when a group of teens appeared at his Lake County, Ill., home early Tuesday morning, with the group then taking off in a high-speed chase that ended in Chicago when the stolen car they were driving ran out of gas, Lake County authorities said Tuesday.
By Tuesday night, the group of Chicago teens had been charged with first-degree murder by the Lake County state’s attorney’s office.
“The teens were charged due to them being in commission of a forcible felony, when the 14-year-old victim was shot and subsequently died as a result of being shot during the commission of a burglary,” according to a Tuesday night news release from the Lake County sheriff’s office.
Illinois law allows for authorities to charge suspects with murder if someone dies during the commission of another serious crime. Known as the felony murder rule, the statute has proved controversial, particularly when it is used to charge juveniles.
An investigation found the six teenagers traveled to Old Mill Creek in a stolen Lexus to commit a burglary, according to the news release. The 75-year-old homeowner went outside to see why there were people near his parked 2011 Audi and yelled at the individuals to leave, but at least one male teen moved toward him with an unknown object in his hand, officials said in the release.
Earlier Tuesday, Lake County sheriff’s spokesman Sgt. Chris Covelli said deputies responded to a 911 call in the 17600 block of West Edwards Road in Old Mill Creek about 1:15 a.m. The caller told dispatchers he shot at thieves before they fled, Covelli said.
“The homeowner feared for his life,” the Tuesday night release said.
The homeowner fired “several shots” at the subjects, Covelli said, adding that it was possibly more than three shots. A 14-year-old from Chicago was wounded “in the head area” while he was outside the car, according to Covelli. Covelli said “a bowie-style knife” was recovered at the scene of the shooting. The group left the scene in the Lexus.
Soon afterward, six people in a stolen 2015 Lexus SUV encountered Gurnee police officers investigating a crash at Route 132 and Hunt Club Road. They asked for help for one of the passengers who had a gunshot wound, Covelli said. Police administered first aid to the passenger, who was then taken to Advocate Condell Medical Center in Libertyville. The passenger was pronounced dead at the hospital, Covelli said.
A person who left the Lexus with the wounded passenger was taken into custody, but the other four sped off in the Lexus.
Gurnee police followed, and the chase reached speeds over 120 mph as Lake County sheriff’s deputies and Illinois State Police joined the pursuit, Covelli said.
The chase ended about 2 a.m. in Chicago near North Halsted and West Randolph streets when, according to Covelli, the Lexus ran out of gas. He added that a 16-year-old male, a 17-year-old male and an 18-year-old woman fled the SUV on foot but were taken into custody “pretty quickly” by state police troopers.
A fourth occupant, a 17-year-old male, initially escaped from the scene but was tracked about a block by Lake County sheriff’s K-9, Dax, to a large garbage bin in the 100 block of Green Street. Covelli said Chicago police officers looked in the bin and found the teen buried in trash in an attempt to avoid capture.
All of the occupants of the Lexus were held Tuesday by the Lake County sheriff’s office and appeared in bond court in the afternoon. Bail was set at $1 million for each of the defendants — a 16-year old boy, three 17-year-old boys and 18-year-old Diamond C. Davis of the 5700 block of South Bishop Street in Chicago.
All are being charged as adults, though officials said the four younger teens are being held in juvenile detention in Vernon Township.
Asked whether the homeowner would face charges, Covelli said it remains “under investigation.”
The identification of the 14-year-old is being withheld. An autopsy is scheduled for Wednesday.
The deputy clerk of Old Mill Creek, Jennifer Durot, called the incident “very sad.”
“I think of a 14-year-old boy,” she said. “I feel really badly for the family that lives there.”
Old Mill Creek, a rural area with a cluster of historic homes surrounded by large equestrian farms, had only 178 residents as of the 2010 census. The town has no police force, so depends on the sheriff to patrol the area.
Durot said there has been no notable violent crime in the village in recent years. And it would be unusual for anyone to drive uninvited into someone’s driveway on a wooded side street like Edwards Road.
“It’s a very quiet town,” she said. “It’s a blip.”
The home on Edwards Road is in a remote area of unincorporated Antioch Township on a two-lane country road with a thick overhang of trees. A sign on the property said no trespassers allowed.
The wife of the alleged shooter declined to speak to a reporter, citing the ongoing police investigation.
According to Covelli, the homeowner possesses an Illinois firearm owner’s identification card and a concealed-carry permit, and he was armed with a “small-caliber revolver.”
Under the law, when someone claims a shooting was in self-defense, the shooter’s frame of mind becomes a central issue in whether and what charges may be filed. Illinois law states that a person is justified in the use of force if he or she “reasonably believes” that such action is necessary to defend against “imminent use of unlawful force.”
But deadly force may only be used if he or she reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent “imminent death or great bodily harm,” or the commission of a forcible felony.
What that means is that a great deal depends on the circumstances of the case, most of which are not yet publicly known, University of Illinois criminal law professor Andrew Leipold said. Someone having something in their hand is not enough to justify force, but if a stranger is approaching threateningly in the dark in a deserted area, it might be.
The people approaching may have been simply seeking directions, but the presence of a knife and their fleeing police could undercut that theory, he said.
“The key language is ‘reasonably believes,’ “ Leipold said. “It means you don’t have to be right, you just have to be reasonable. … If the homeowner reasonably believed (he was in fear for his life), that’s good enough to justify his actions.”
Asked if Lake County sheriff’s officials have fielded similar reports of vehicle thefts recently, Covelli said that the office sees crimes of opportunity “every summer” that include vehicle thefts. The Lexus had been reported stolen in Wilmette on Sunday, he said.
Covelli added that investigators are looking into whether the teens taken into custody on Tuesday can be linked to other vehicle thefts in Lake County and the northern suburbs.