Lake County State’s Attorney Eric Rinehart said his office will review the circumstances that led to a 15-year-old boy being wrongly arrested and charged in the Waukegan Dollar General shooting.
Martell Williams, 15, was arrested last Wednesday and wrongly charged with attempted murder and aggravated battery in connection to a shooting at Dollar General, 2613 Grand Avenue in Waukegan, on February 4.
In a statement on Tuesday, Rinehart said his office is “very concerned” about Williams’ arrest.
“Our office dropped the charges as soon as the new information was presented to us by the Waukegan Police Department,” Rinehart said.
Last week, prosecutors decided to approve attempted murder and aggravated battery charges against Williams.
Waukegan police said tips from the public led directly to the arrest.
The Lake County State’s Attorney’s Office says on their website that they are dedicated to seeking justice “with integrity by vigorously and ethically prosecuting criminal acts” with “unwavering respect for the rights of the accused.”
The office says its goal is to represent the importance of government transparency.
In Tuesday’s statement, Rinehart said he came into office promising an increase in police accountability.
Rinehart highlighted his office’s role on accountability policies, like expanding their Brady policy, starting a policy on compiling constitutional violations and providing new training to law enforcement leaders.
“In 2021 alone, our office provided two trainings on juvenile confessions to the Lake County Major Crimes Task Force and the Lake County Juvenile Officers Association,” he said.
Williams said police kept asking him the same question and offered him McDonald’s in exchange for a confession, CBS Chicago reported.
“It is true he bribed me with McDonald’s, and he kept trying to get a confession,” Williams said.
Rinehart said his office will review the interrogation between detectives and Williams “to determine how law enforcement can conduct future investigations while proactively protecting the rights of juvenile suspects.”
After his arrest, Williams was transported to the Robert W. Depke Juvenile Complex Center in Vernon Hills where he spent two days in custody until his release Friday morning.
Waukegan Deputy Police Chief Joe Florip said detectives verified Williams’ whereabouts on the night of the shooting.
Williams, who is a Waukegan High School freshman and basketball player, was attending an away game at Adlai E. Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire, ABC7 Chicago and CBS Chicago reported.
A screenshot from Snapchat confirmed Williams was attending the basketball game at the time of the shooting.
While at Waukegan High School, a dean took Williams to the office where he was met by two police officers.
“And once I reached their office, it was just two police officers and as soon as I got in they didn’t tell me nothing or say nothing to me. They just said, ‘you’re under arrest,'” Williams said.
“The officer said that multiple people came to him saying that it was me,” Williams said.
“He didn’t even know a shooting was involved. He just said, ‘Hey, it wasn’t your fault. You were defending yourself, you know. Just go ahead and say you were there and we’ll let you go home,” Kevin O’Connor, Williams’ attorney, said.
O’Connor said Williams’ record was expunged but is asking for a public apology from authorities, ABC7 reported.
No apology was mentioned in Rinehart’s statement.
The Waukegan Police Department said in a statement Monday that the city is reviewing the case but cannot provide further public comment yet.
“The City has been in contact with the juvenile’s family and their attorney. The City will continue to communicate with and provide information to the family’s attorney as it gathers the facts and circumstances that led to this situation,” the police department said.
Police are still searching for the suspect in the case, who is wanted for shooting the 19-year-old Dollar General employee in the face.
“We will continue to support Waukegan’s renewed investigation into this matter to find the real perpetrator,” Rinehart said.
The GoFundMe for the employee’s family has raised over $10,000 as of Wednesday evening.