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Officer 'did what he had to do' in split-second decision, chief says


By Kendrick Marshall
The Chicago Sun-Times

WAUKEGAN, Ill. - Waukegan Police Chief William Biang said Thursday that his officers used proper procedure in Wednesday's shooting death of 17-year-old Jeffrey Lewis, who hit one of them on the head with a hammer during an altercation.
Flanked by Mayor Richard Hyde, 1st Ward Ald. Sam Cunningham and Lewis' father, Curtis, Biang said firing six shots at the teenager was warranted.
"The officer had to make a split-second decision," Biang said during a news conference Thursday at the Waukegan police station. "It was a tough decision he had to make."
About 2:15 p.m. Wednesday, Waukegan police responded to a call from Lewis' mother, Margaret Rollins, about fighting at her Helmholz Avenue home, police said.
Lewis, who was a student at Waukegan High School, was involved in an argument with his brother, 23-year-old Gregory Lewis.
When police arrived at the scene to break up the fight, Lewis allegedly hit one of the officers over the head with a hammer.
Another officer then drew his gun, shot and fatally wounded Lewis, Biang said.
The teenager, a member of the Waukegan football team, died at the scene of six gunshot wounds to the chest and abdomen, said Lake County Coroner Dr. Richard Keller.
The officer who was struck by the hammer was taken to Lake Forest Hospital for a possible fractured skull and released late Wednesday night.
The second officer was taken to Vista Medical Center East for a stress-related matter and later released.
When asked why the officers did not use a Taser in an attempt to control Lewis, Biang said the officers are trained to use deadly force if the situation calls for it, and that using such a weapon would not have worked against the teenager.
"The officer thought his partner was in danger, and he did what he had to do to control the situation," Biang said.
The officers are expected to be placed on administrative leave until the Lake County Major Crime Task Force and the Lake County state's attorney's office concludes an investigation.

Wire Service
 
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