Two juveniles have been arrested and charged as adults for allegedly fatally shooting a Waukegan High School volleyball coach and counselor in Waukegan last month.
Waukegan Deputy Police Chief Scott Chastain said Thursday that an extensive investigation assisted by all divisions of the department resulted in the identification of the two suspects.
The Waukegan Police Department’s Criminal Investigations Division conducted a screening of the case with the Lake County States Attorney’s Office.
The state’s attorney’s office approved charges against the suspects and two search warrants were obtained for each of the suspects’ homes.
The department executed the search warrants simultaneously around 8 a.m. Thursday in Waukegan.
The two suspects were located and taken into custody.
Detectives located two handguns at one of the suspects’ homes and four handguns at the other suspect’s home.
One had a fully automatic switch attached to the gun and a second full-auto switch was located but not attached to a gun. One of the four guns was reported stolen out of Florida.
Both suspects, ages 16 and 17, are being charged as adults. They have been charged with three counts of first-degree murder.
The charges stem from a shooting that officers were called to around 10:36 p.m. on May 6 at 10th Street and Lewis Avenue in Waukegan.
Chastain said officers arrived and found two vehicles that had been struck by gunfire.
The first vehicle was occupied by a man, who was uninjured but had a bullet hole in his vehicle.
The second vehicle, a white Honda, was occupied by Niolis Collazo, 23, of Waukegan.
Paramedics transported Collazo to Vista Medical Center East in Waukegan where she was pronounced dead.
Police shut down the intersection where the shooting happened for several hours to investigate.
Multiple shell casings were seen in the roadway nearby Collazo’s Honda.
Waukegan High School Director of Athletics Colette Erbach sent a message to parents about Collazo’s death.
“I am sending this email to all of you with an extremely heavy heart and huge sadness,” Erbach said.
Collazo was an assistant freshman boys volleyball coach at Waukegan High School and a Working on Womanhood counselor at Edith Smith Middle School in Waukegan.
Collazo was also a former Waukegan High School student who excelled in athletics and music, Erbach said.
Collazo has a sister who is a senior that is on the girls varsity softball team and plays volleyball, Erbach said.
“This is a tragic incident that will require our athletes and staff to talk to counselors,” Erbach said.
An autopsy conducted by the Lake County Coroner’s Office confirmed Collazo died from a gunshot wound.
Chastain said Collazo’s vehicle and the second vehicle struck by gunfire were traveling in different directions and they were not connected to each other.
Collazo has no criminal history or other known issues, Chastain said, adding that investigators are unsure whether she was the intended target or not.
Waukegan Mayor Ann Taylor said she was livid and outraged by the tragedy.
“While we don’t know the details of how Ms. Collazo became the victim of gun violence in our hometown, I do know that this senseless and stupid use of guns on our streets must end,” Taylor said.
“Niolis Collazo was a beloved Waukeganite, a cherished coach, and a mentor to Waukegan students. While nothing we ever can do will fully ease the Collazo’s family pain and anguish during this time, I am pleased the Waukegan Police Department and the Lake County State’s Attorney successfully collaborated in the arrests that occurred earlier this morning. As Mayor of Waukegan, I extend my deepest condolences to Ms. Collazo’s family,” Taylor said.
The two teenagers are expected to appear in court Friday morning.