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Girlfriend of teen shot and killed by police says they had their hands up before being shot

Tafara Williams, 20, of Waukegan, speaks from her hospital bed Tuesday following a police-involved shooting last week in Waukegan which left her boyfriend dead.

A 20-year-old woman claims she and her boyfriend had their hands up before an officer opened fire, killing her boyfriend. “He wanted us to bleed out on the ground,” she said.

Tafara Williams, of Waukegan, and Marcellis Stinnette, 19, of Waukegan, were both shot on October 20 by a Waukegan police officer.

Stinnette and Williams were sitting in a car near Liberty Street and Oak Street in Waukegan in front of Williams’ home. Williams was in the driver seat and Stinnette was in the passenger seat.

“I rolled down the window and turned on all the lights in the car so the officer could see. I had no weapons and I wasn’t doing anything illegal.” Williams said.

“I asked the officer if we were free to leave. The officer took a few steps away from the car and got on his cellphone. I drove away very slowly because I was scared to get out of the car,” Williams said.

Waukegan Police Department Cmdr. Edgar Navarro said that the vehicle fled from an officer who was attempting to investigate the occupied vehicle.

Moments later, a second police officer spotted the vehicle near Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue and South Avenue in Waukegan.

The officer approached the vehicle and it began to reverse, Navarro said, adding that the officer then fired his pistol in fear of his safety, striking both of the victims.

“Marcellis was 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 as she spoke from her hospital bed on Tuesday, one week following the incident.

Stinnette was transported by ambulance to Vista Medical Center East in Waukegan where he was pronounced dead. Williams was transported by ambulance to Advocate Condell Medical Center in Libertyville in serious condition.

A protest rally was held on October 22, 2020, in Waukegan following the fatal shooting of 19-year-old Marcellis Stinnette. | Photo: George Moore Jr.

“That day, I lost the love of my life and the father of my 7-month-old son. [The baby] is the only thing I have left of Marcellis,” Williams said tearfully.

Williams claims that she and Stinnette both had their hands up and that the first officer who approached their car harassed them and knew Stinnette by name.

Williams also claims that the first officer never turned on his lights or sirens.

The mayor of Waukegan said that video of the shooting will be publicly released this week.

The video will be released after the families of Williams and Stinnette view the bodycam and dashcam video, Waukegan Mayor Sam Cunningham said.

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A Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request submitted to the city is due on Thursday. Cunningham said that the city intends to release the videos before that day.

The unnamed police officer who fatally shot Stinnette and Williams was fired Friday evening.

Waukegan Police Chief Wayne Walles said the officer, who is Hispanic and has five years of experience with the department, was fired for “multiple policy and procedure violations.” The officer’s name has not been released.

Marcellis Stinnette, 19, of Waukegan. | Family provided photo.

The U.S. Department of Justice — FBI was asked by the Lake County state’s attorney to assist in the investigation.

“I contacted the U.S. Department of Justice to request they review the circumstances surrounding this incident. I have been advised that they have agreed to do so,” Lake County State’s Attorney Michael Nerheim said on Friday.

“I am confident in the work being done by the Illinois State Police and welcome the assistance of the FBI. 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. Having all available resources and as many independent fresh eyes as possible is critical to this process,” Nerheim said.

“I don’t know why they did this to my baby, I don’t understand it. I’m not going to get it. But lord knows they need to stop being trigger happy,” Clifftina Johnson, Williams’ mother told reporters on Wednesday.

The Illinois State Police is leading the investigation, Navarro said.

No guns were found in Williams’ vehicle and Waukegan police officers are equipped with both body cameras and squad car dash cameras.

“If state charges are approved, the court process will begin, which will be open to the public. If state charges are not approved, a detailed statement will be provided explaining the facts, applicable laws, and basis for the decision. At that time, my office’s case file will also be made available to the public on the state’s attorney’s office website at www.lcsao.org,” Nerheim said.

“I continue to urge calm as we undertake this process and pledge complete transparency. Once again our condolences continue to go out to the families and friends of Marcellis Stinnette and our prayers for a speedy recovery go out to the woman wounded in this unfortunate situation,” he added.


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