A month after she was fatally shot by Dolton police, major questions remain about the death of 19-year-old Alexis Wilson — killed just weeks before she was to enter college.
It’s still unclear what sparked an argument with a worker at a drive-thru window that drew officers to Wilson’s red van around 1 a.m. July 27.
The worker called police and said Wilson was knocking on the window with a gun, but on surveillance video it appears to be a long pipe or other object. There is also no mention of a gun on bodycam video from responding officers.
The video does appear to show one of the officers punching Wilson after telling her to get out of the van – something the police chief has not denied.
Wilson then sped off, allegedly dragging an officer who was getting into the van on the passenger side. The officer starts shooting at her, and another officer also opened fire.
The family’s lawyer says Wilson was shot seven times, twice in the head. An autopsy report has not been made public.
Authorities said the police shot Wilson because she was using the van as a weapon, but selected video released by police doesn’t clearly show that.
The family lawyer said he has seen other video not released publicly that shows Wilson wasn’t aware the officer had jumped into the van. The officer also appears to be in the van, not outside being dragged, he said.
“From the beginning, Dolton started to spin a false narrative,” attorney Rahsaan Gordon said.
The shooting is being investigated by the Illinois State Police, which has refused to comment on the ongoing case. Village officials did not respond to questions from the Sun-Times.
Wilson’s parents have repeatedly raised questions at demonstrations at the mayor’s home and at a village board meeting. They say they are frustrated about not getting answers while officials continue to criminalize their daughter.
“She had a lot of plans,” said her mother, Cara Wilson.
The 19-year-old was hours away from completing training to become a certified autism therapist and was working to open her own lash stylist studio, and she was preparing to attend Prairie State College in the fall.
“She was putting them all into action, and I was watching, and I was amazed by that,” Wilson said. “And now that’s gone, everything she planned, everything is just gone.”
‘Didn’t make it’
On the morning of July 27, Cara Wilson thought it was her daughter knocking at the door, but instead she found Dolton police officers out front. There had been a crash and a shooting overnight, they said, and her daughter “didn’t make it.”
Wilson said she was not given any details, just a phone number for a detective.
Later that day, her husband, Alonzo Wilson, began seeing news stories about a young woman killed in a police shooting in Dolton. He assumed officials would have told him if this was his daughter, but still he called the detective and again was told there had been a “crash, gunshots and your daughter didn’t make it.”
It was not until officials released a statement to the media the family learned those gunshots had been fired by police, they said.
“They’re making statements on the news without ever having informed us it was our child they were talking about,” Cara Wilson said. “There was no compassion, no consideration, no empathy, no sympathy, nothing.”
Days later, the Illinois State Police allowed the parents to view surveillance and police bodycam video of the shooting. The couple said they could not keep watching after the shots were fired.
They and their lawyer asked village officials to alert them before the footage was made public, but they say Dolton police released the videos without warning.
“Just to know that I could have been watching the news, her mother could have been watching the news,” Alonzo Wilson said.
What video shows and doesn’t show
The video, released by Dolton police the week after the shooting, shows a red van pulling up to the Baba’s Famous Steak & Lemonade restaurant at Oak and Sibley Boulevard around 1 a.m.
After a few minutes, the van leaves then returns. The driver, identified by police as Alexis Wilson, knocks on the window several times with a long object shaped like a pipe.
An employee from the restaurant calls 9-1-1 reporting a “person outside with a gun” who is “banging on the drive-thru window.” The employee tells police to hurry up because they were “trying to go home.”
The van is still at the window when officers arrived minutes later. Alexis Wilson hadn’t driven away because she thought the employee was either getting her order or was going to provide a refund, according to Gordon, the family lawyer.
The officers order Wilson and a male passenger out of a car. The passenger steps out, but Wilson remains behind the wheel, repeatedly telling officers she has no clothes on.
Suddenly, Wilson’s head jerks back against the seat as if she has been punched. She drives off, screaming, as an officer jumps into the passenger seat. Bodycam footage becomes obstructed at this point, but seconds later shots ring out.
Wilson crashes into an unoccupied bicycle shop about a block away on Sibley Boulevard. An officer runs to the scene and yells for Wilson to put her hands up, but there is no response. He discovers the injured officer inside the van and administers aid.
The video ends before anyone attends to Wilson. She was pronounced dead at the scene, according to police.
Police Chief Robert M. Collins Jr. told reporters shortly after the shooting he believed the officer inside the van fired the first shots, followed by other officers. The chief said the van was being used as a weapon and the officers feared for their lives.
He would not directly answer whether Wilson was punched by one of the officers before speeding off. “It can be assumed that it was a punch, but I can’t assume that it is and I can’t assume that it isn’t,” he said.
‘You scared that child’
Alexis Wilson’s parents are demanding a fuller explanation.
“That was a decision not to grab the taser, to grab the gun. That was a decision,” Cara Wilson said. “It was a decision when that child said, ‘I don’t have any clothes on.’ Why didn’t you call the lady officer then to address her?
“She had both hands on the wheel, she was not a threat to him,” she added. “She is a 19-year-old girl taking a punch from a grown man. You scared that child … She couldn’t fight them, so she ran.”
The family, along with community activists, are pushing for an internal investigation of the officers involved. Dolton police have not released their names.
“They were acting like we were wrong for even inquiring about the situation, like we were bugging them almost,” Alonzo Wilson said.
Activists say the shooting shows how little police accountability there is in some parts of the Chicago area.
“We definitely need policy changes within the south suburban and Cook County communities,” said Camiella Williams, a community organizer and adult adviser to GoodKids MadCity. “When it comes to police, there is no real oversight.”
Williams has helped organize protests outside Dolton Mayor Tiffany Henyard’s house and at a village board meeting.
“If she says she’s the people’s mayor, we the people — black women, people who have a heart, people that believe in police accountability — we are going to fight for Alexis Wilson,” Williams said. “We have too many families out here, we have too many families across this country with no justice.”
‘She’s not a story on the news, she’s my child’
Wilson’s death has been particularly hard on her 8-year-old brother, Alonzo Jr., the family says.
Her brother has autism, and when he was growing up Wilson worked as a “little speech therapist,” her mother said. But since the shooting, the boy has struggled to communicate.
“He’s having an extremely hard time recognizing and dealing with what’s going on,” Alonzo Harris said. “Since this happened with Lexi, he’s had these outbursts. He’s not saying anything, he can’t express it.”
The parents said they understand they have a long journey ahead but feel it is their duty to fight for the “whole truth.”
“She was a real girl, she’s not a story on the news, she’s my child,” Cara Wilson said. “She’s somebody that we loved.”