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Waukegan police officer fatally shoots teen after car reverses during traffic stop: police

The incident began shortly before midnight when an officer began to investigate a vehicle near Liberty Street and Oak Street.

A person was fatally shot by Waukegan police Oct. 20, 2020.
A person was fatally shot by Waukegan police Oct. 20, 2020.
File photo

A Waukegan police officer shot two people Tuesday night — fatally wounding one of them — after the car they were in allegedly reversed at the officer during a traffic stop in the north suburb.

An autopsy result released Thursday found that Marcellis Stinnette, a 19-year-old Black man from Waukegan, died of a gunshot wound, according to Lake County coroner Howard Cooper.

The incident began shortly before midnight when an officer began to investigate a vehicle near Liberty and Oak streets, police said in a statement. The car drove off from the officer but was found moments later by another officer near Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue and South Avenue.

Marcellis Stinnette
Marcellis Stinnette
Provided

As that officer approached on foot, the car reversed and the officer, a Hispanic five-year veteran of the department, fired his pistol out of “fear for his safety,” police said in the statement.

The driver, a Black Waukegan woman in her 20s, and Stinnette were both hit by gunfire, authorities said. The woman was hospitalized in serious condition and is expected to recover. Stinnette died at Vista Medical Center East, Cooper said.

No weapon was found in the vehicle, police said.

The officer who fired shots is on administrative leave for the duration of the investigation, Waukegan police Cmdr. Edgar Navarro said in an email. Navarro said the officer fired shots as the car was reversing toward him.

Body camera and squad car video was turned over to the Illinois State Police, who are investigating the incident, Navarro said. State police will then present its findings to the Lake County state’s attorney’s office to determine if charges will be filed.

Protestors disrupted a Wednesday afternoon news conference outside the Waukegan Police Department, demanding to know why the officer fired into the vehicle, with one man saying “my nephew is dead in the street,” according to a Daily Herald report.

State’s Attorney Michael Nerheim said it may be several weeks before state police finish their investigation, and that only then will his office be able to review their findings.

“Once I have had the opportunity to review the entire investigation, I will make a determination regarding whether the officers violated any laws. Should it be determined the officers violated a law, they will be criminally charged,” Nerheim said in a statement. “If laws were not broken, I will write up a detailed statement that will completely review the facts, show the evidence, explain applicable laws, and give our reasoning for the final decision.”

Former Lake County sheriff and current U.S. Senate candidate Mark Curran said the Stinnette family has roots in the area and expressed confidence in Nerheim to investigate the shooting.

“On its face, it looks bad,” Curran said. “I have confidence in Mike Nerheim. ... In my dealings with Nerheim, he’s not afraid to indict an officer if that’s where the evidence leads.”

A protest is scheduled for noon Thursday at the site of the shooting, Martin Luther King Jr. Ave. and South Avenue, before a march to the Waukegan police headquarters, 101 N. West St., according to Clyde McLemore, founder of the Lake County chapter of Black Lives Matter.