VERNON HILLS, Ill. (WLS) -- Murder charges have been dropped against a group of five Chicago teenagers after a shooting during an attempted car theft in Lake County, Ill., last month.
Police said the teens tried to steal a man's car in Old Mill Creek. The man shot at the teens, killing 14-year-old Jaquan Swopes.
The other five teens were charged with Swopes' murder under a state law that allows other defendants accused in a felony to be charged with murder of someone dies during the commission of the crime.
Relatives of the teens and community activists accused Lake County State's Attorney Mike Nerheim of overcharging and on Thursday, Nerheim announced murder charges against the teens have been dropped.
"This is a perfect example of peer pressure, foolishness, bad judgement and not thinking through consequences," said defense attorney Jed Stone. "No one thought that night that there would be a dead 14-year-old."
"I just want to thank everyone who stood behind us, the family, through this traumatic situation," said Chloe Pollion, mother of one of the 17-year-old defendants.
Two of the juvenile defendants were released from custody Thursday afternoon, including Pollion's son. Two others remain in juvenile detention.
"From the first day I was in custody, I began to pray," Pollion's son said. "I didn't know if my cousin was going to be alive or not. I prayed about everything from the beginning and I see now that he answered my prayers."
Under the plea agreement, prosecutors charged the three 17-year-olds and one 16-year-old as juveniles with felony conspiracy to commit burglary and a misdemeanor criminal trespass to a motor vehicle. Only 18-year-old Diamond Davis has been charged as an adult.
"Keep your kids closer and keep them in the house," advised Cartesa Smith, a relative of one of the juveniles.
"Let me begin by saying the safety of our community and the enforcement of the criminal laws is paramount," Nerheim said in a statement. "Justice requires that all offenders be held accountable and appropriately sentenced for their crimes. The circumstances and facts outlined in my statement support the charge of Felony Murder. However, after full consideration of all the evidence, mitigation presented by defense counsel as well as the wishes of the victim's family, my office has entered into an agreement with defense counsel for the five offenders. This agreement ensures all offenders will be held responsible and face appropriate sentences."
Prosecutors said on August 13, the homeowner on West Edwards Road got up after seeing headlights in his driveway. The 75-year-old man, armed with a handgun he owned lawfully, walked out to investigate.
The man yelled for them to leave and when one of the suspects appeared to be carrying an object approached him, he fired several times and struck the 14-year-old. A 10-inch knife was discovered in the driveway.
The teens then drove away and left the wounded 14-year-old with police in Gurnee who were handling an unrelated traffic stop. The suspects were taken into custody in Chicago's West Loop after a police chase.
The homeowner was a licensed gun owner and has not been charged.
"I'm not bitter about the situation, they didn't kill my baby," said Tyisha Annan, mother of Jaquan Swopes. "Them still his cousins, at the end of the day. I don't feel toward them no type of way. I still want justice for my son."
Murder charges dropped against 5 teens accused in north suburban attempted car theft