Prosecutor explains why he’s charging teen burglary suspects with murder after homeowner fatally shot 14-year-old alleged accomplice

The suspects ‘were solely responsible for placing the now-deceased 14-year-old offender in danger’

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An Illinois prosecutor said murder charges are “appropriate” for teenage burglary suspects whose alleged accomplice was fatally shot by a homeowner since the suspects were “solely responsible for placing the now-deceased 14-year-old offender in danger,” ABC News reported.

Lake County State’s Attorney Michael Nerheim said Thursday that adult felony murder charges against five suspects — a 16-year-old, three 17-year-olds, and one 18-year-old — are lawful, the network said.

What happened?

A 75-year-old Lake County homeowner told deputies he went outside around 1 a.m. Tuesday after noticing a suspicious SUV in his driveway and several people on his property, ABC News said, adding that he believed they were trying to break into and steal his car.

The homeowner — whom police haven’t named — was armed with a legally owned revolver and told authorities he was standing on his porch, yelling at them to leave, when two people quickly approached him, the network reported.

The homeowner said he saw one of the approaching individuals holding something in his hand, so he fired at least three times for fear of his wife’s safety, police said, according to ABC News, fatally hitting the boy in the head. He was identified as Ja’quan Swopes, the Chicago Tribune reported.

The homeowner called 911 for an ambulance, but police said the surviving suspects fled and allegedly led cops on a car chase to Chicago, reaching 120 mph on Interstate 94, the network said. Once the vehicle was out of gas, police said they ran from the SUV — which was reported stolen days earlier — and were eventually apprehended, ABC News said.

The homeowner was not charged, the network reported, adding that a knife was found on his property.

“Why would you just come out shooting?” Swopes’ mother Tyiesha Annan angrily asked the Tribune. “Two things are for certain. He shot him in the head. You knew what you were doing when you shot my baby in the head.”

More on the murder charges

Nerheim added to ABC News that had the suspects “not made the decisions they did make early Tuesday morning, this 14-year-old would still be alive today.” He also said he believes the “charges are appropriate based on all the facts of the case, the degree of responsibility exhibited by each of these offenders, and the Illinois statutes currently available,” the network added.

The suspects could face between 20 and 60 years in prison, WBBM-TV reported.

“Charging these offenders with felony murder as adults is based entirely on the law,” Nerheim said in a statement, ABC News reported. “Illinois law has long held felons accountable for any foreseeable deaths that occur during the commission or attempted commission of a ‘forcible felony.’ This includes the death of innocent bystanders in addition to the deaths of co-felons. The rationale of the legislature surrounding this legislation is simple: When criminal defendants commit forcible felonies (especially when the felon(s) are armed), the possibility of death or great harm increases dramatically.”

The Lake County Public Defender’s Office is representing the five suspects, but ABC News said the office declined to comment on the cases Friday.

*story by The Blaze