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News Every Day |

Did electronic monitoring failures play a role in Larry Neuman’s murder?

Chicago Police Supt. Larry Snelling spoke a truth this week when he announced that a 16-year-old had been arrested and charged as an adult for murdering West Side community pillar Larry Neuman.

"Today's armed robber who's 13, 14 years old is tomorrow's murderer at 15, 16 years old," Snelling said. "So there has to be some early intervention."

He's absolutely right. And we'd add more thing: There has to be some effective early intervention.

That's because at the time of Neuman's killing, the now-accused killer, Lazarious Watt, was on the streets — in one of several violations of a court-ordered home confinement agreement in a previous case, Matthew Hendrickson of the Sun-Times reported.

Police said Watt is one of two gunmen who shot Neuman on June 20 outside the minister and former Chicago cop's West Garfield Park neighborhood home. The other assailant remains at large.

Editorial

Editorial

The courts will ultimately determine Watt's guilt or innocence. But right now, it appears Watt was out on the streets with a gun and allegedly took a man's life, instead of being home as his home confinement agreement required.

The structure and system that should have kept Watt home, and out of potential trouble, apparently failed — and that only compounds the tragedy of Neuman's death.

Neuman murder police on scene

A suspect in the killing of retired Chicago Police officer Larry Neuman is walked into the 11th District police station at 3151 W. Harrison St. in East Garfield Park, June 23.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

Seven electronic monitoring orders

Neuman, 73, was shot to death after Watt and another individual approached the retired U.S. Marine and Chicago police explosives expert — in ski masks and with their guns drawn — as Neuman attempted to pay a landscaper outside his home on the 4300 block of West Monroe Street, police said.

The retired officer pushed the worker "out of harm's way," according to Chief of Detectives Antoinette Ursitti, and pulled his own gun.

Police said Neuman was hit in an exchange of gunfire. A video released by police allegedly showing Watt and the second suspect walking together in the moments after the shooting garnered tips and helped police identify the teen, authorities said.

But why was Watt even out walking the streets? A Cook County judge had previously ordered Watt held in home confinement for violating at least seven other electronic monitoring orders over the last six months.

And those orders that Watt so freely violated stemmed from a Juvenile Court case in which he crashed a stolen car while possessing a gun with an automatic switch and an extended magazine.

There's a very good argument to be made — in fact, we're making it here — that the charges in that case were serious enough that Watt should have been ordered held in custody at the county's Juvenile Detention Center until his case either went to trial or was resolved otherwise.

Police said Watt likely will be charged in yet another case: a carjacking that happened in March.

After the first of the repeated electronic monitoring violations, surely the judge in Watt's case — or someone in an official capacity related to the case — should have, or could have, stepped in and locked him up.

What good is home monitoring if it's not going to be used when needed and adequately enforced? Chicagoans, and especially Neuman's family and the community that held him in high esteem, deserve to know the details of what happened with Watt's confinement.

Fixing a broken system

Neuman's killing — like the senseless homicides that precede it and will no doubt come after it — cast a pall over the city, helping to cement Chicago's international reputation as being lawless and crime-ridden.

Some of that rep is unearned. There are far worse U.S. cities when it comes to crime. But that fact is cold comfort to Chicagoans, especially the families and friends of murder victims and those living in the city's more violent neighborhoods.

The system is broken here in Chicago, as evident not only in what Watt allegedly did, but in the way his home monitoring violations were seemingly treated so lightly.

Watt now faces the accountability he had managed to freely dodge. He's been charged as an adult for Neuman's death and Judge Antara Nath Rivera ordered him held at Cook County Jail.

But it breaks the heart to imagine how much of this loss — from Neuman's murder to the 16-year-old gone far astray, now locked up and facing potentially years in prison — could have been prevented if the system designed to protect the public had only done its job.

The Sun-Times welcomes letters to the editor and op-eds. See our guidelines. Send letters to letters@suntimes.com

Learn more about the Sun-Times Editorial Board at chicago.suntimes.com/about/editorial-board

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