Community outraged after teen's fatal shooting

February 2, 2012 8:53:13 PM PST
Community leaders in Calumet City are calling for a federal investigation into the shooting death of a 15-year-old boy with a developmental disability.

Two police officers shot Stephon Watts Wednesday after he slashed an officer with a knife.

Family, friends, as well as some who never met Watts, gathered in front of the police station with signs and candles Thursday night. They say his death was an injustice and police had no reason to shoot the teenager.

"We're calling for the immediate resignation of those people who have shot and murdered an innocent child in our community," said Rev. Lance Davis, activist.

Calumet police say two officers each fired a shot at Watts after he slashed one with a knife. They have said it was an appropriate use of deadly force.

Family members say Watts had a butter knife and the boy, who suffered from Asperger syndrome which is similar to autism, posed no threat to the four officers in the room at the time.

"It's a real communication disorder also. They are not understanding. They do not know how to respond appropriately," said Wanda Satkas, Chicagoland Autism Connection.

"I believe my cousin did not die in vain. He has put the spotlight on children with autism," said Aaron Watts.

Earlier Thursday, Rev. Jesse Jackson of the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition met with family members. While Watts was African American and the officers involved are Caucasian, Jackson says he does not believe race was much of a factor. He does say, however, police had no justification for using deadly force against Watts.

"Why did they have to kill this boy? Why couldn't they use their his physical strength to control him? point blank range with two bullets," said Rev. Jackson.

Watts' father initially called police for help Wednesday morning because of an argument with his son. He witnessed the shooting but declined to speak to reporters Thursday night because of the possible pending lawsuit against the officers. He let others speak for him.

"We will not let this rest until the truth of this matter is done," said David Lowery, South Suburban NAACP.

Family members say Watts was holding a butter knife because he wanted to try to open a closet where his father had put his computer away. They do not believe he had any intention of hurting the officers.

Calumet City officials say the officers involved have been placed on leave pending the investigation.

Illinois State Police say they are conducting the investigation and it is ongoing.