Fatal shooting during attempted car theft topic of community meeting in Waukegan

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WAUKEGAN, Ill. — A fatal shooting during a botched car theft in Lake County earlier this month left five Chicago teens charged with murder under a controversial state law.

The law was the topic of a community meeting in Waukegan Wednesday, on the eve of the five teens appearance in court.

Around 1 a.m. August 13, a 75-year-old licensed gun owner heard people on his property in the community of Old Mill Creek. Thinking they were stealing his car, he fired a shot and killed 14-year-old Ja’quan Swopes. The five other teens, including four juveniles, were charged with his murder under Illinois’ felony murder law. Under the law, anyone can be tried and convicted of first-degree murder, even if they didn’t kill the victim, providing the death happened during the commission of a felony.

19 other states have a similar law.

The penalty in Illinois is 20 to 60 years in prison.

Those who attended the meeting discussed the question of does the possible punishment truly fit the crime? Not only did many of the people at the meeting not understand how that law works, many admitted they had no idea it existed. Others states they believed the punishment was “compounding the harm.”

The accused teens have their first appearances in Lake County circuit court Thursday.

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