Family Members, Activists Call For Outside Investigation Into Waukegan Police Shooting

Waukegan protest
Tafara Williams's mother Clifftina Johnson speaks during a protest rally for Marcellis Stinnette who was killed by Waukegan Police Tuesday in Waukegan, Ill. Nam Y. Huh / Associated Press
Waukegan protest
Tafara Williams's mother Clifftina Johnson speaks during a protest rally for Marcellis Stinnette who was killed by Waukegan Police Tuesday in Waukegan, Ill. Nam Y. Huh / Associated Press

Family Members, Activists Call For Outside Investigation Into Waukegan Police Shooting

The families of Marcellis Stinnette and Tafara Williams are calling for more information to be released, and for a federal investigation into Tuesday’s police shooting in Waukegan, Ill. that left the 19-year-old Stinnette dead, and Williams clinging to life in a hospital.

“We have plenty of questions and we just ask that there be some accountability. We are seeking that somebody be held responsible because this looks like murder,” Satrese Stallworth, a relative of Stinnette, said.

Stallworth said Stinnette’s mother asked her to act as a family spokesperson because Stinnette’s mother is dealing with health issues.

“The police cannot police the police. They cannot investigate. And they cannot give us fair justice if it’s one of their own. And yes we are seeking justice for Marcellis Stinnette,” Stallworth said at a rally in front of the Waukegan city hall Thursday afternoon.

Stinnette was killed, and Williams was wounded Tuesday night when an officer opened fire during a traffic stop. Both are Black.

Police said the officer, who is Hispanic and five-year-veteran of the force, shot into the car because it started rolling toward him during the stop.

Neither Williams nor Stinnette were armed.

“No weapon, no gun. Why are you taking [his] life?” Stallworth asked at Thursday’s rally. “Why are you only unleashing a round of bullets into the car? This has to stop.”

Clifftina Johnson, Williams’ mother, said she had just spoken with her daughter on the phone Thursday afternoon and she had just gotten out of another surgery.

“And I told her, ‘We are out here, Tafara, and justice will be served,’” Johnson said.

Waukegan police shooting
Rayon Edwards speaks on a megaphone as he marches with protesters during a protest rally for Marcellis Stinnette on Thursday afternoon. Nam Y. Huh / Associated Press

The Illinois State Police are tasked with investigating the shooting, as is common in suburban police shootings. A WBEZ/BGA report in 2018 found that the ISP’s investigations into such shootings almost never find the officer at fault.

During a Wednesday news conference, Waukegan Mayor Sam Cunningham asked residents to wait until all the facts are known before reacting to the shooting of Stinnette. Lake County State’s Attorney Michael Nerheim noted in a statement that it may be several weeks before the investigation is complete.

The BGA/WBEZ investigation, however, found that on average, state police investigations actually take 17 months.

Waukegan is about 15 miles south of Kenosha, Wisconsin, where nights of protests erupted after Jacob Blake, a Black man, was left paralyzed after being shot seven times in the back by police on Aug. 25.

Some of Blake’s family members were at Thursday’s rally in Waukegan to support the Williams and Stinnette families.

At its peak the rally had more than a hundred people. As it broke up Thursday afternoon, workers were boarding up windows on the front of a county building, and government vehicles were being used to restrict access to certain streets.

Boarded up businesses Waukegan
After Thursday’s rally, workers boarded up windows on the front of a county building. Patrick Smith / WBEZ

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Patrick Smith is a reporter on WBEZ’s Criminal Justice Desk. Follow him @pksmid. Email him at psmith@wbez.org.