Fatal police shooting of Black 19-year-old prompts firing of officer

Nicole Acevedo
·3 min read

A police officer in Waukegan, Illinois, has been fired after fatally shooting a Black teen and wounding a young Black woman who were inside a car earlier this week.

The officer who shot at the vehicle Tuesday night, killing the passenger, Marcellis Stinnette, 19, and wounding the driver, Tafara Williams, 20, committed “multiple policy and procedure violations” in the incident and has been terminated from the force, said police Chief Wayne Walles in Waukegan, 42 miles north of Chicago.

The shooting occurred just before midnight after one officer "was investigating an occupied vehicle," and the car fled, police said in a news release Wednesday.

Moments later, a second officer spotted the vehicle in a nearby area. As the second officer got out of his vehicle and approached, the car began to move in reverse and the officer fired "in fear of his safety," according to the Wednesday news release.

Williams was taken to a hospital with gunshot wounds and is recovering. Stinnette was also taken to a hospital, but died of his injuries shortly afterward, police said in a news release Friday.

Image: Marcellis Stinnette (change.org)
Image: Marcellis Stinnette (change.org)

Police said no weapons were found in the vehicle. The officer who shot the couple was Hispanic, and the first officer who investigated the vehicle was white, according to police.

The officer was fired shortly after Lake County’s chief prosecutor announced that the FBI will assist the Illinois State Police in an independent investigation of the shooting.

In a statement Friday evening, Lake County State’s Attorney Michael Nerheim said he asked the U.S. Justice Department to "review the circumstances surrounding" the incident.

Once the independent investigation is completed, it will be turned over to the state's attorney's office for review.

”As I have said before, once the investigation is concluded, all the evidence will be reviewed and a final decision will be made with respect to any potential charges,” Nerheim said.

Activists and relatives of Williams and Stinnette have demanded the release of police video of the shooting, which authorities said has been turned over to investigators.

The department's officers and squad cars are all equipped with cameras, police said. It was unclear what video exists of the shooting, and Waukegan police Cmdr. Edgar Navarro said Thursday there is no timeline as to when footage will be released.

Attorney Ben Crump — who has also taken on the cases George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor — said in a press release Friday that he will be representing Williams alongside co-counsel Antonio M. Romanucci.

"We have seen over and over that the ‘official’ report when police kill Black people is far too often missing or misrepresenting details," Crump said. "Ms Williams' legal team will begin our own investigation into what happened during that incident."

"We will share our findings with the public when we have uncovered the truth," he said.

An email to the Waukegan Police Patrolmen's Union for comment on the officer's firing did not receive an immediate response Saturday.