Demanding “Justice for Justus Howell” on the One-Year Anniversary of His Murder by Police

April 11, 2016 | Revolution Newspaper |


On April 4 in Zion, Illinois, the family, friends, and supporters of Justus Howell came out on a blustery, cold day filled with snow flurries to both celebrate his life and to demand justice for Justus, murdered by Zion cops a year ago. Zion is a town of 24,000 (60 percent Black and Latino) in Lake County, about an hour’s drive north of Chicago, close to the Wisconsin border.

Justus Howell was just 17 years old when he was gunned down by Zion cops on April 4, 2015. They said he was a “threat” as he was running away, and shot him twice in the back. A month later, despite witnesses who said Justus was unarmed, Lake County State’s Attorney Michael Nerheim called Justus’ murder “justified” and refused to charge the cop who fired the fatal shots.

Now, one year later, the outrage and the pain of Justus Howell’s murder remain, while the cops who are given a license to kill with impunity walk free.

With close to 100 people gathered at the neighborhood site where Justus was shot down, his mother, LaToya Howell, told supporters, “I ain’t never gonna stop this fight. This needs to be a household word....We have work to do!” and led people in a chant of “Justice for Justus Howell! We ain’t never gonna throw in the towel!” Justus’ father, Lamont Stephen, read a statement he had written, which said in part: “‘We declare the right to be considered human beings and be respected as human beings.’—Malcolm X. It is 60 years since Emmett Till... why are we still fighting for our god-given rights to be treated as human beings? Justus Howell was deprived of his rights to be a human being. Justice for Justus!”

LaToya Howell demands justice for her son Justus, murdered by Zion, IL police on April 4, 2015.
LaToya Howell demands justice for her son Justus, murdered by Zion, IL police on April 4, 2015. Photo:

Over a dozen family members of people across the country who have been killed by police joined the protest, from Chicago; Detroit; Cleveland; Cincinnati; Madison, Wisconsin; and New York City. Rev. Jerome McCorry of Dayton, Ohio, also attended and spoke. Major TV, radio, and newspaper media from Chicago sent teams to cover the event.

LaToya led people to march through the neighborhood to the police station a little less than a mile away, where the demand for justice for Justus was brought right to the lair of his murderers.

From the day Justus was executed by the cops, his mother LaToya and grandmother Alice have stood firm and have been speaking out against this outrage. They both have played an important role in building a nationwide fight against the epidemic of murder by police, including taking part in the RiseUpOctober protests in New York City last October 24, and in numerous protests and meetings in Chicago and elsewhere.

Later that evening, there was a banquet sponsored by FOCUS, an organization founded by LaToya Howell to motivate and de-stigmatize at-risk youth. LaToya talked about why she formed the organization and what she is trying to do:

This is not only a necessity but my right as a parent. There are still a lot of people out here who are asleep, don’t know how important it is. These are our children, our future. ... Without these voices amplified as one, no one will listen. I believe that we will win. I’m not waiting. I was born into this, it happened to me, we’re in this game, not wantingly, but chosen to be, so we have to stick together to be heard. I wanted to ball up and cry this whole day away, but that would not be Justice for Justus. I believe that we will win.

There was controversy at the banquet—there were arguments that LaToya should love and forgive the police murderer of her son. And arguments that no one who hadn’t lost a loved one to police murder could understand the pain of that, and therefore had nothing to say or contribute to the struggle. Or that no white people could really be trusted to stand with victims of police murder. And there were schemes and dreams in the mix that you can stop the horror of police getting away with murder by getting city officials to pass local ordinances. Carl Dix’s speech responded to some of these views, and from the perspective of getting to a world without any of these horrors or oppression of any kind, was a powerful call and challenge to EVERYONE to stand together to fight to stop police terror.

The banquet overall was a powerful testament to the scope of the horrors of police murder, and families and others refusing to accept it and fighting to stop it. Each one of the family members from around the country spoke to why they were there in solidarity with the fight for justice for Justus and for all the victims of police terror. Janet Cooksey, the mother of student Quintonio Legrier, who was murdered by Chicago cops the day after Christmas, 2015, told Revolution: “It’s been going on for too long, police are getting comfortable, it seems to be part of their job now, killing our youth and covering it up, killing our youth like it’s nothing, and these are our loved ones’ lives. People are going to have to stand up and show them the outrage in us. ... I had a son who wasn’t living the street life. Going to school. An honors student. Loved people, wasn’t doing wrong. I shouldn’t have to be doing this. So it just shows the cops are out here doing wrong and thinking nothing of it.”



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