The mother of a 15-year-old boy with autism who was fatally shot by police in his home Wednesday is facing off with suburban Chicago police officers who say the officer acted appropriately.
Stephon Watts, 15, who was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome when he was 9, had had 10 previous interactions with Calumet City, Ill. police in the last two years, including at least one where police discharged Tasers to subdue him, the Chicago Tribune reports. Watts’ father called the police Wednesday after arguing with his son, who didn’t want to go to school, having been instructed by social workers that Watts should be handled by authorities when agitated.
Asperger’s syndrome interferes with social skills, but sufferers often have normal to high intelligence. Police say they found Watts armed with a knife in the basement of his parents’ home, the Chicago Sun-Times reports. When one officer sustained a defensive wound to his left forearm, two other officers on the scene fired their weapons. Steven Watts, Stephon’s father, says his son was shot once in the leg, and then again in the head.
Stephon’s mother, Danelene Powell-Watts, told Fox Chicago her son shouldn’t have died that day, and said she might pursue a lawsuit against the police force.
“They murdered my son…decided to kill him,” Powell-Watts told Fox . “They didn’t have to shoot him in the head, they could have [T]ased him. They could have hit him in his arm or his leg. They didn’t have to kill a 15-year-old with autism.”
Police have defended the actions of the Calumet City officers on the scene, and reports about where Watts was shot vary widely. Calumet City Police Chief Edward Gilmore told ABC Chicago Watts was shot in the torso, and that officers responded appropriately.
“[Stephon Watts] is well-known to this department as someone who will grab a knife and likes to fight with his fists and a knife, and unfortunately today when he slashed the officer’s arm, the officer felt his life was in jeopardy and he had nothing else to do but defend himself,” Police Chief Gilmore told ABC.
A protest is planned at the police station Thursday.