5 teens charged with murder after attempted car theft led to fatal shooting of 14-year-old

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"The teens were charged due to them being in commission of a forcible felony, when the 14-year-old victim was shot and subsequently died as a result of being shot during the commission of a burglary," the sheriff's office said in a statement.

The fatal encounter began about 1:15 a.m. Tuesday when the teens allegedly tried to break into a car in the 17600 block of West Edwards Road in Old Mill Creek, Lake County sheriff's office spokesman Sgt. Christopher Covelli said at a news conference.

A 75-year-old man told investigators he saw a black Lexus SUV in his driveway and group of people trying to break into or steal his vehicle, Covelli said.

Two of the teens — one of whom held something in his hand — allegedly approached the man as he was standing on his porch, Covelli said. The man fired at least three rounds from a revolver, one of which hit a 14-year-old Chicago boy in the head.

The gunman, who had a valid FOID card and concealed-carry permit, called 911 to report the shooting and request an ambulance, Covelli said. Investigators found a knife at the scene, which they believe one of the suspects had with him. The 17-year-old was arrested there.

The 14-year-old boy was taken to Condell Medical Center in Libertyville, where he was pronounced dead, according to the sheriff's office and Gurnee fire officials.

The boy was identified Wednesday as Jaquan Swopes of Chicago, according to the Lake County Coroner Howard Cooper. A preliminary autopsy showed he died of a gunshot wound to the head, Cooper said.

The rest of the teens got back into the Lexus and drove away before officers could arrive, according to Covelli. A short time later, the SUV pulled up to Gurnee police officers who were investigating a crash near Route 132 and Hunt Club Road.

The 14-year-old who had been shot and a 17-year-old boy got out of the SUV, Covelli said. The 17-year-old asked for help and an officer called for an ambulance and performed first aid. The four other occupants of the Lexus got back in and sped away onto I-94.

The pursuit ended about 15 minutes later when the Lexus stopped near Randolph and Halsted Streets on the Near West Side, state police said.

Covelli said the Lexus stopped because it ran out of gas. Four people got out and ran away, but were arrested by state troopers after a brief chase.

The Lexus was reported stolen from Wilmette on Aug. 11, Covelli said. Investigators are working with Wilmette police to determine the circumstances of the theft.

"Anytime there is a loss of life, it is a tragedy for the family and friends of the deceased," Lake County Sheriff John Idleburg said in a statement. "Our condolences go out to the family of the young man who lost his life today, despite the circumstances."

The teens are each being held on $1 million bail, the sheriff's office said. The teens are at the Huse Juvenile Detention Facility, and Davis is at the Lake County Jail. They are scheduled to appear in court Sept. 5.

Some who believe the first-degree murder charges are far too harsh are now trying to change the law.

Under Illinois' felony murder law, you can be charged with murder if someone dies during a forcible felony -- even if you do not pull the trigger.

Lake County State's Attorney Michael Nerheim approved the charges against the teens.

"People need to know if you commit a forcible felony and somebody dies as a result of that you're going to be held accountable. And hopefully that will dissuade people from committing forcible felonies," he said.

But there has been a backlash, with State Representative Kelly Cassidy tweeting: "I don't disagree that these kids should be held accountable, but murder charges? Could this have been handled differently?"

"I think this is a really good example of this archaic law being used in an inappropriate situation," said criminal justice reform advocate Alissa Rivera of Restore Justice.

Rivera says if convicted, the teens would spend at least 20 years in prison for a botched car theft.

"We are really throwing away the chance for them to be rehabilitated," Rivera said.

State Representative Justin Slaughter has introduced legislation that would narrow who can be charged with murder.

"It actually disproportionately affects a lot of youth. Often times they're committing crimes in groups, there's peer pressure," Slaughter said.

Slaughter says after the Lake County charges, he hopes the bill will see action this fall.