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Crime & Courts

DuPage County deputy who shot, killed Villa Park teen during domestic violence call won't face charges

The DuPage County State's Attorney's Office has ruled no criminal charges will be filed against a sheriff's deputy who shot and killed a Villa Park teen involved in a domestic violence incident, according to a news release from the office.

Trevon Johnson, 17, was shot and killed by DuPage County Deputy Scott Kuschell at about 11:26 p.m. Jan. 1 after the deputy responded to the first of three 911 calls of a domestic violence incident in progress at a residence near Villa Park.

“Every case involving the use of deadly force by a police officer must be carefully and thoroughly investigated," State's Attorney Robert Berlin said in the release. "Such scrutiny is required to ensure the protection of the civil rights of those involved and to maintain the public’s confidence in law enforcement."

Phone calls released to the media in January showed each call included differing information on whether Johnson was armed at the time.

The calls by Johnson's siblings, Ricquia Jones and Robert Pelts – identified asáCall 1áandáCall 2áby the Sheriff's Office – were each more than 10 minutes long, with sounds of commotion and fighting in the background.

The sister's call alleges Johnson tore out some of her hair, threw a Christmas tree and struck members of the family, including a punch to her head while she was pregnant.

"He put his hands on me. He punched me in my head, several times. He broke the glass, dining room. He threw the Christmas tree," Jones said. "It's over! He needs to go to jail, now, he needs to go to jail!"

In his call, Pelts claimed Johnson had a history of mental illness, corroborated the violent nature of the conflict and claimed Johnson had a knife.

A third, shorterácallásaid the teenager was armed only with a butter knife but no longer had it.

The deputy arrived at the home wearing a full police uniform and driving a marked squad car, the State's Attorney's Office release stated. As Kuschell approached the home, he heard yelling and a loud crash. He then drew his service weapon and approached the house. Another resident, Willie Bradley, motioned for the deputy to enter the home and told him Johnson was armed.

Once inside, Kuschell encountered Pelts at the top of the stairway. He asked Pelts to come down the stairs and searched him for weapons.

As the deputy did so, he heard footsteps running down the stairs toward him and saw Johnson running toward him with a "dull grey metal knife-like object" –álater identified as a trophy –áin his right hand raised above his head. Kuschell ordered Johnson to put down the item, but he did not, according to the release.

Believing his life and the lives of others in the residence were in danger of death or great bodily harm, the deputy discharged his weapon at Johnson, striking him four times, the release stated.

"It is important to remember that police officers are often forced to make split-second decisions about the appropriate amount of force necessary to bring a tense, uncertain and rapidly evolving situation under control," Berlin said.

Johnson was transported to Elmhurst Hospital and pronounced dead at 12:05 a.m. Jan. 2. A toxicology report revealed Johnson had THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, in his system at the time of his death, according to the release.

Berlin said he and his staff reviewed police reports, calls, statements, physical evidence and more to reach their decision.

He said the fundamental question was whether the officer reasonably believed Johnson posed an imminent threat. Berlin and his staff concluded the deputy acted lawfully and was justified in using deadly force, noting the officer had been led to believe Johnson was armed with a knife, the release stated.

"It is indeed a tragedy any time a human life is lost," Berlin said. "In my opinion, the deputy involved in this unfortunate incident made every attempt to reach a peaceful conclusion under very stressful conditions. His concern for the safety and well-being of the other residents in the home is a testament to the excellent training that the DuPage County Sheriff’s Office provides for their entire force. Unfortunately, Mr. Johnson’s failure to obey the Deputy’s commands and his aggressive, threatening behavior resulted in the deputy discharging his weapon. My thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends as they attempt to come to terms with what happened that evening.”

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