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Teen who fatally shot man in Humboldt Park liquor store was acting in self-defense: defense attorney

A lawyer for Amari Watkins, 16, said the teen felt threatened when 44-year-old James Carson Jr. started “brandishing” a wine bottle at his client at the sale’s counter after the two argued. Watkins was denied bail Saturday.

The George N. Leighton Criminal Courthouse, 2650 S. California Ave., Sept. 12, 2018.
The George N. Leighton Criminal Courthouse, 2650 S. California Ave., Sept. 12, 2018.
Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

A 16-year-old boy was in fear for his life when he fatally shot a man earlier this week at a Humboldt Park liquor store, the teen’s defense attorney said Saturday.

Shortly after 9 a.m. Monday, Amari Watkins followed 44-year-old James Carson Jr. to the coolers in the back of Midtown Market, 3855 W. Division St., after a clerk refused to sell cigarettes to the boy and a 19-year-old man he was with, Cook County prosecutors said.

Watkins and Carson started to talk as the older man grabbed a beer and then walked to the checkout counter, culminating in an argument between the two, prosecutors said.

Defense attorney Bill Wolf said that’s when the older man threatened Watkins with a wine bottle.

“[Carson] grabbed the wine bottle and appeared to be brandishing it as a weapon against both my client and his 19-year-old companion... and it was in that point of time that the single gunshot was fired in what was very arguably self-defense,” Wolf said.

Prosecutors said the wine bottle was in Carson’s hand moments before the shooting, but didn’t say why he had the bottle.

Watkins and the 19-year-old, who wasn’t identified in court, ran off after the shooting, prosecutors said. Carson, who was shot in the chest, was pronounced dead at Stroger Hospital.

The shooting was captured on the store’s surveillance cameras, which recorded Watkins’ face when he lowered his mask at one point, prosecutors said.

Chicago Police released video of the shooting Tuesday and called on the public to help identify the two suspects.

Wolf said Watkins, a junior at Orr Academy High School, turned himself in to detectives Thursday.

Watkins was subsequently charged with first-degree murder.

Wolf argued Carson’s actions leading up to the shooting were “threatening.”

Judge Barbara Dawkins disagreed and ordered Watkins held without bail as the case continues.

He was expected back in court Monday.