Woman injured in Illinois police shooting says cops let boyfriend die

Midwest

Marcellis Stinnette (Photo courtesy of NewsNation affiliate WGN)

WAUKEGAN, Ill. (NewsNation Now) — A Black woman who was shot by police last week in suburban Chicago said Tuesday that officers did nothing more than cover her boyfriend with a blanket after he was shot and left him on the ground to die.

Tafara Williams, 20, spoke to reporters during a Zoom call from her hospital bed as she described the Oct. 20 shooting in Waukegan that killed 19-year-old Marcellis Stinnette.

“They allowed him to die,” Williams said. “They wanted us to bleed out on the ground.”

In detailing what happened for the first time, Williams said she was simply sitting in her car in front of her home with Stinnette smoking a cigarette because she did not want to smoke near their young child. She said a white officer pulled up and started to question her, telling Stinnette, who was Black, that she knew him from when he was in jail.

She said after she and Stinnette both raised their hands to show the officer that they were unarmed, she pulled away slowly. She said the officer did not follow her but that a short time later it seemed to her that another officer was “waiting for us.”

“There was a crash and I lost control. The officer was shooting at us. The car ended up slamming into a building. I kept screaming, ‘I don’t have a gun.’ But they kept shooting. He told me to get out of the car. I had my hands up, and I couldn’t move because I had been shot.”

She said that she could hear Stinnette breathing and begged the police to take him to the hospital first because he had recently had surgery, but her pleas were ignored.

“They laid Marcellis on the ground and covered him with a blanket while he was still breathing,” she said. “I know he was still alive and they took that away from me.”

One of the attorneys representing Williams and Stinnette’s family, Antonio Romanucci, said there was only one reason why the officer pulled up behind Williams and Stinnette in the first place.

“He profiled these people because of the color of their skin. That was their crime,” he said.

Waukegan Mayor Sam Cunningham said during a Sunday prayer vigil for Marcellis Stinnette, 19, who died in the shooting last Tuesday, that the city intends to publicly release the bodycam and dashcam videos, but only after Stinnette’s family has seen them.

“Let’s be clear: This situation requires their approval before we move on,” Cunningham said.

He also urged the public to let justice take its course in the case and asked the community to “respect the process.” On Friday, the police department fired the officer who shot the couple.

Activists and relatives of Stinnette and Tafara Williams, 20 — who was wounded in the shooting and remains hospitalized — have demanded the release of the police video, which authorities say has been turned over to investigators.

On Saturday, Williams spoke from her hospital bed to a crowd at a rally in Waukegan, about 40 miles north of Chicago, saying she “won’t sleep until Marcellis gets justice.” The couple were dating and had a child together.

Activist Chris Blanks said last week that the video is particularly important because the police version of events and the version Williams’ mother has shared appear to contradict each other. Clifftina Johnson has said her daughter told her that she and Stinnette did nothing to provoke the officer.

Waukegan police have said Williams was driving and Stinnette was a passenger in a vehicle that fled a traffic stop conducted by a white officer late Tuesday and that the vehicle was later spotted by another officer, who is Hispanic. Police said that as the second officer approached, the vehicle started moving in reverse and the officer — fearing for his safety — opened fire. No weapon was found in the vehicle.

The officer who shot the couple was fired late Friday by Waukegan Police Chief Wayne Walles. He said in a brief statement that the male officer, a five-year department veteran, had committed “multiple policy and procedure violations.”

Walles offered his condolences to Stinnette and Williams’ families during Sunday’s vigil, which attracted a large crowd, the (Arlington Heights) Daily Herald reported.

“There is power in prayer, and the more of us that are together and praying, and praying for each other and everybody involved in this terrible incident, will help us heal and move forward,” he said.

Williams’ sister, Sasha Williams, said at Sunday’s vigil that her sister is working to recover her strength so she can return to caring for her children.

“We shouldn’t have to say, ‘Don’t shoot us,’” Williams said. “We shouldn’t have to come outside and fear for our lives. We shouldn’t be afraid of the police.”

Lake County State’s Attorney Mike Nerheim also attended Sunday’s vigil.

He said Friday that he had asked the U.S. Justice Department to review the circumstances surrounding the shooting, and said the federal agency had agreed to do so. He has urged calm while the investigation takes place and pledged transparency.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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