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Tearful victim of Waukegan police shooting says she and her boyfriend had their hands raised

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

Waukegan police shooting victim Tafara Williams speaks on Zoom from her hospital bed Tuesday, October 27, 2020.
Waukegan police shooting victim Tafara Williams speaks on Zoom from her hospital bed Tuesday.
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WAUKEGAN — With tears in her eyes, 20-year-old Tafara Williams sat up in her hospital bed Tuesday and told how a Waukegan police officer kept shooting at her and her boyfriend, even though, she said, both had their hands raised and were unarmed.

“I kept screaming, ‘I don’t have a gun!’ But he kept shooting,” Williams said.

It was the first time Williams has publicly described the events of Oct. 20, when a Waukegan police officer wounded Williams and fatally shot her boyfriend, Marcellis Stinnette, and the father of her 7-month-old son, during what authorities have described as a traffic stop.

Three days after the incident, Waukegan Police Chief Wayne Walles announced he had fired the officer, saying the officer had committed “multiple policy and procedure violations.”

At a news conference outside Waukegan’s city hall complex, attorneys for Williams and her family accused the fired officer of profiling Williams and her boyfriend. But they also expressed hope — based on how the city has so far responded to the incident.

“We want to make this city, Waukegan, right now the example of accountability and transparency in policing. What Waukegan has done will give this family a sense of peace. It will not restore what has happened,” Chicago attorney Antonio Romanucci said.

Romanucci described the shooting incident as “needless, senseless and should never have happened.”

Williams, linked to the news conference via a Zoom feed, said the incident unfolded while she and Stinnette were sitting in her parked car.

“I had just put my babies to bed, and was sitting outside in the driver’s seat of my car to smoke outside the house,” she said.

A police officer pulled up, without turning on his lights or sirens, she said.

“I rolled down my windows and turned on all the lights inside the car so the officer could see I had no weapons and I wasn’t doing anything illegal,” she said.

Williams said the officer got out of his car and began harassing Stinnette.

“He said to Marcellis, ‘I know you from jail,’” Williams said.

Marcellis Stinnette
Marcellis Stinnette
Provided

Williams said she asked the officer if she and her boyfriend were under arrest. When he didn’t answer and stepped away from her car to use his cellphone, Williams drove slowly away, she said.

A short while later, she drove onto Martin Luther King Drive, still in Waukegan, and came upon another officer waiting for them.

“There was a crash and I lost control. The officer was shooting at us. The car ended up slamming into a building,” Williams said.

Williams said she and Stinnette both had their hands up.

“I kept asking him, ‘Why, why?’ he was shooting,” Williams said, adding, “More officers came and were pointing their guns at us. My blood was gushing out of my body.”

She said officers laid Stinnette on the ground and covered him with a blanket, even as he continued to breathe.

“They wanted us to bleed out on the ground,” she said.

Williams described Stinnette as the love of her life.

The briefing organized by her attorney, Benjamin Crump, comes exactly one week after the shooting. Police have said the vehicle driven by Williams, with Stinnette in the passenger’s seat, fled a traffic stop conducted by a white officer. They said that a short time later, another officer, who is Hispanic, approached the vehicle, he opened fire out of fear for his own safety when the vehicle moved in reverse toward him. No weapon was found in the vehicle.

Romanucci said neither he nor Williams’ family has been able to look at police videos from the incident. Waukegan Mayor Sam Cunningham has said the city would release police video from the incident. Romanucci and Crump said Tuesday they’d just come from a meeting with Cunningham.

“He did not say when,” Romanucci said. “All I can tell you is that it’s imminent. We’re just waiting for confirmation.”

Crump declined to detail Williams specific injuries, but said they’re “substantial.”

Addressing reporters Tuesday evening, Stinnette’s sister, Dhanellis Banks, said: “He’s dead at the hands of the people [who are] supposed to protect us. It’s not supposed to happen.”

Contributing: The Associated Press