CHICAGO – A Black woman wounded in the fatal police shooting of a Black teen in Illinois said Tuesday that a Waukegan police officer fired on her and her boyfriend while they had their hands raised in the air.
A police officer in Waukegan, just north of Chicago, shot and killed Marcellis Stinnette, 19, and wounded Tafara Williams, 20, on Oct. 20 when the car they were in allegedly reversed toward the officer, who fired into the car, according to police.
The officer, who was identified only as a Hispanic five-year member of the department, was terminated Friday night “for multiple policy and procedure violations,” Department Commander Edgar Navarro said in a news release.
Video of the shooting will be released this week, the city’s mayor said Monday.
Williams, who suffered several gunshot wounds and remains hospitalized, spoke via Zoom at a press conference Tuesday with her lawyers, parents, aunt, brother and sister, who sang a song in Williams’ honor. She offered a starkly different narrative of what happened that night.
“I lost more than my boyfriend that day. I lost the love of my life and the father of my 7-month-old son,” Williams said through tears, seated on a hospital bed in a gown.
‘Mama, they just shot us for nothing’:Illinois police officer fatally shoots Black teen, injures woman
Williams, the mother of two, said she had just put her children to bed and went outside the house to sit in the driver’s seat of her car to smoke, with Stinnette in the passenger seat.
“An officer arrived and pulled up behind my parked car. He didn’t turn on his lights or his sirens. He got out of the police car, so I rolled down all the windows and turned on all the lights so the officer could see I had no weapons, and I wasn’t doing anything illegal,” Williams said.
Williams said the officer called them both by name and started harassing Stinnette. “He stood near the car with his left hand on his gun, and he said to Marcellis, ‘I know you from jail,'” Williams said.
Williams said that’s when she asked the officer if they could leave. Williams said the officer “took a few steps away from the car and got on his cell phone,” and she drove away slowly because she was “scared to get out of the car.”
Williams said she drove several blocks away, and that the officer was not following her. When she turned a corner, Williams said she saw another officer.
“There was a crash and I lost control. The officer was shooting at us. The car ended up slamming into a building. I kept screaming ‘I don’t have a gun,’ but he kept shooting,” Williams said. “He told me to get out of the car. I had my hands up and I couldn’t move because I had been shot. Marcellis had his hands up. I kept asking him why he was shooting.”
Williams said her blood was “gushing” out of her body, but that the officers wouldn’t give them an ambulance until they got out of the car.
“I could hear Marcellis still breathing. I told them ‘please don’t shoot I have a baby, we have a baby, we don’t want to die.'”
Williams said an officer dragged her away from Stinnette and laid him on the ground and covered him with a blanket “while he was still breathing.” Williams said she asked the officers to take Stinnette in the ambulance first, but they didn’t.
“My heart is completely broken, not only because I watched someone I love get shot, be in complete pain and die, but also because our 7-month-old son will never know his father,” Williams said in a separate statement Tuesday.
Stinnette died of injuries from a gunshot wound, according to a preliminary autopsy report released last week.
Marcellis Stinnette:Illinois police officer who fatally shot Black teen has been fired
Last week, Department Commander Edgar Navarro offered a different picture of what happened. According to Navarro, the incident happened just before midnight, when an officer approached a “suspicious” vehicle. As the officer was conducting his investigation, the vehicle fled and was spotted moments later by another officer, who got out of his car to approach the vehicle, Navarro said.
“That officer exited his vehicle, and the vehicle that he was investigating began to reverse towards the officer. The officer then pulled out his duty weapon and fired into the vehicle,” Navarro said.
The initial police report said the officer was “in fear for his safety.” He struck both Stinnette and Williams. They both were taken to the hospital, where Stinnette died.
No firearms were found in the vehicle, Navarro said. He did not elaborate on why the vehicle was initially stopped.
Illinois State Police’s Public Integrity Task Force was investigating the incident, and the Waukegan Police Department had turned over all reports, body cam and dashcam videos, Navarro said.
Lake County State’s Attorney Michael Nerheim said last week he would review the state police investigation and make the “entire case file” available to the public once complete.
Family members and activists in Waukegan have held several marches and vigils in the past eight days, calling for justice for Stinnette and Williams.
“Tafara is my child. My only baby,” Tina Johnson said through tears. “I’m asking you to pray for her, and my grandson Marcellis Stinnette, Jr.”
Trevor Williams, William’s father, said he wasn’t sleeping at night.
“I’m asking the federal government to please, give us some help,” he said.
Attorneys Ben Crump and Antonio M. Romanucci – who represent the families of George Floyd, Daniel Prude, Byron Williams and others – are representing Williams and said they would conduct their own investigation.
“Once again, we stand before you and we talk about needless harm. Harm that should never have happened. Death that should never have happened,” Romanucci said Tuesday. “He profiled these poor people because of the color of their skin. That was their crime. They were committing no crime at all.”
Crump was expected to hold another press conference with the Rev. Al Sharpton Tuesday night. And social justice organizations from Chicago, Milwaukee, Kenosha and St. Paul were expected to attend a march in Waukegan Wednesday afternoon.
“We were able to get the police fired because of his misconduct, and I’m not giving up ’til he’s arrested and charged,” said Clyde McLemore, a 25-year resident of Waukegan and the founder of Lake County’s Black Lives Matter chapter.
With a population of more than 86,000, Waukegan is majority Hispanic or Latino and about a quarter non-Hispanic white and a quarter Black, according to the Census Bureau.
The city is about 15 miles south of Kenosha, Wisconsin, where Jacob Blake, 29, was shot in the back multiple times as he was getting into a car, triggering unrest in the city and sparking protests around the nation.
Of the more than 5,700 people police have shot since 2015, 24% were Black, even though Black Americans make up 13% of the U.S. population, according to a Washington Post database of fatal shootings by on-duty police officers.
“This happened to my child and her boyfriend,” Johnson said. “If America doesn’t stop this disease of violence, it could be anyone’s child.”