Memorial established, funds raised for funeral as police continue investigation into shooting death of Waukegan coach

·3 min read

An informal memorial sprouted Tuesday at the Waukegan intersection where a young school counselor and coach was killed in a weekend shooting, as police continued to follow leads in the case.

Meanwhile, hundreds of people donated to help defray funeral expenses for Niolis Collazo, 23, of Waukegan.

Waukegan Deputy Police Chief Scott Chastain said Tuesday that police continue to follow leads, but aren’t sure yet whether Collazo was intentionally targeted. Police did locate shell casings, but Chastain said he did not want divulge additional information until police have a better understanding of what happened.

Collazo was driving home from a dinner with friends when she was shot near the intersection of Lewis Avenue and 10th Street at about 10:30 p.m. Saturday. Another vehicle was struck by gunfire, but the driver was not injured, police said.

Collazo, who worked with Waukegan school kids as a counselor and coached volleyball at Waukegan High School, was brought to a hospital but died of her injuries.

Flowers began appearing Tuesday at the intersection where she was mortally wounded.

As cars whizzed by, Maria Gonzalez and Chris Martinez quietly worked on a makeshift memorial in honor of Collazo.

Gonzalez and Martinez had never met Collazo, but as they gathered two sets of rose bouquets and Martinez began fastening a homemade bouquet holder to a street post, they reflected on the loss of a promising Waukegan resident.

“We just wanted to make it look nice; have some respect for somebody that just passed away,” Martinez said.

Gonzalez, who works at a tax service nearby, was shocked to learn Sunday about the tragic incident after attending a work party on Saturday evening. Normally, she explained, the stretch of Lewis Avenue where she works is not the scene of gunfire.

When Gonzalez and her co-workers noticed people dropping off flowers near the intersection, she said, they felt compelled to do something so that well-wishers would not have to put flowers directly on the pavement.

“I noticed a lot of news people were coming in as well, and we noticed people were starting to leave stuff,” Gonzalez said. “We were talking in the office and saying we should put some flowers there.”

Meanwhile, a GoFundMe site set up to help Collazo’s parents defray funeral expenses had raised almost $40,000 in just a day, with contributions from 600 people.

Collazo was a standout volleyball player at Waukegan High School, where she was a 2018 graduate. She graduated from college in December, and started working in February with a company that contracts with the Waukegan school district to provide mentoring and leadership, especially for girls. She had also started coaching the boys freshman volleyball team at WHS.

Collazo’s stepfather, Terry Joiner, said Monday that Collazo was a happy, positive person who wanted to give back to her community.

The visitation for Collazo is planned for Friday from 2-8 p.m. at the Peterson & Patch Funeral Home, 408 N. Sheridan Road, Waukegan.