Prosecutors have dropped murder charges against the five teens charged in connection with the fatal shooting of their 14-year-old accomplice during an attempted car theft in unincorporated Lake County in August.
“An agreement has been accepted between my office and defense attorneys for the five offenders involved in the August 13 Old Mill Creek crime spree that resulted in the death of a 14-year-old boy from Chicago,” Lake County State’s Attorney Michael Nerheim said Thursday morning.
“The circumstances and facts outlined in my statement support the charge of Felony Murder. However, after full consideration of all the evidence, mitigation presented by defense counsel as well as the wishes of the victim’s family, my office has entered into an agreement with defense counsel for the five offenders,” Nerheim said.
“This agreement ensures all offenders will be held responsible and face appropriate sentences,” Nerheim added.
Diamond Davis, 18, of Chicago, is expected to appear in Lake County bond court Thursday afternoon where she will be formally charged with a Class 4 felony of conspiracy to commit burglary and a Class A misdemeanor of criminal trespass to a motor vehicle. The first-degree murder charge against her will be dismissed.
Prosecutors said that Davis is expected to waive her preliminary hearing and then plead guilty to the two charges next week. The case will then be scheduled for a sentencing hearing after she pleads guilty.
The cases against the four juvenile offenders, who are under 18 years old, are moving to juvenile court. The charge of first-degree murder will be dismissed against all four of them as well.
“However, due to strict laws governing juvenile courtroom proceedings, my office is unable to give details regarding the charges involving the juveniles going forward,” Nerheim said.
The five teens were initially charged with first-degree murder for the shooting death of their accomplice, Jaquan Swopes, 14, of Chicago.
The six teens drove in a stolen vehicle from Cook County to a Lake County home in the 17600 block of West Edwards Road in Old Mill Creek around 1:15 a.m. August 13.
“The offenders drove the stolen vehicle down an exceptionally long driveway on West Edwards Road in a very remote, dark, and secluded section of Lake County,” Nerheim said.
The 75-year-old homeowner, who was in bed, got up after seeing headlights moving up his driveway. As he was getting ready to go outside, the vehicle turned around in his driveway and parked facing toward the road before several people exited and approached the home, prosecutors said.
The homeowner armed himself with a handgun he lawfully owned and then walked out his front door to investigate.
“After first announcing his presence and telling the offenders to leave, the elderly homeowner saw several offenders quickly moving toward him. He saw one of the offenders carrying an object, and, fearing for his own life safety and the safety of his wife, he fired his gun several times to try and scare the offenders away. One of the shots fired from the weapon hit the 14-year-old male,” Nerheim said.
The teens ran back to the stolen vehicle and drove away.
Several minutes later, four of the teens left the wounded 14-year-old and a second offender with a police officer, who was investigating an unrelated scene in Gurnee.
The four drove off in the stolen vehicle, leading police on a high-speed back to Chicago that ended when the car ran out of gas.
After the shooting, police located a 10-inch hunting knife on the driveway and a cell phone with pinned GPS coordinates of other homes the teens had been that night, prosecutors said.
“The offenders have since admitted they knew they were in a stolen vehicle the night of the incident, and all have admitted to coming to Lake County for the sole purpose of committing burglaries,” Nerheim said.
Nerheim said that he has been facing a dilemma between “balancing justice, the safety of our community, and recognizing the ages of the offenders involved.”
The decision by the Lake County State’s Attorney’s Office to drop the murder charges against the five teens comes following weeks of scrutiny by activists and community members, and uproar on social media.
“It is important to note that I make decisions based on the law, the evidence and facts of each individual case. I do not make charging decisions based on public comments or from what is written on social media,” Nerheim said in a statement.
“It is time for these offenders to understand the seriousness of their actions and face the consequences. If they choose to continue to follow the troubled path they are currently on, it will end in only one of two ways – either with another tragic funeral or with more involvement with the criminal justice system,” Nerheim said.
“My hope is they will learn from this tragedy, and because of their young age, take this opportunity to be rehabilitated.”