Protesters march for 19-year-old killed by Waukegan cop, call for justice
More than 100 people marched Thursday from where 19-year-old Marcellis Stinnette was killed this week to Waukegan City Hall, demanding justice for his death at the hands of a police officer.
The protesters, who were led by the Lake County chapter of Black Lives Matter, occasionally paused to stop traffic and speak, including at County and Washington streets in front of the Lake County Courthouse. The crowd was nonviolent throughout the milelong march and rally, and nearly every speaker who used a megaphone urged peace.
But there was no mistaking the emotion and anger in the crowd.
Satrese Stallworth, a relative of Stinnette and a spokeswoman for the family, thanked marchers for their support when the crowd arrived to rally outside city hall.
Stallworth said the family wanted justice for Stinnette -- "This looks like murder," she said.
Clyde McLemore, the founder of the Lake County chapter of Black Lives Matter, said before the protest that police shootings that had happened elsewhere in the country were now at his front porch and action was needed.
"America right now is under a state of emergency," McLemore said. "We need justice reform in the state of Illinois."
The shooting happened shortly before midnight Tuesday, Waukegan Police said, when an officer fired into a vehicle in self-defense after the driver started reversing as the officer walked toward it. Police have said the officer, who is Hispanic and a five-year veteran of the force, feared for his life.
The gunshots struck Stinnette, who was a passenger, and his girlfriend, Tafara Williams, who was the driver. Williams suffered serious injuries but is expected to recover, officials said.
Before the shooting, a Waukegan police officer was investigating a suspicious vehicle that had stopped near Liberty and Oak streets, police said. The driver sped away, but the vehicle was spotted minutes later by a second officer near Martin Luther King Jr. and South avenues, where the shooting occurred. No firearms were found in the vehicle.
The shooting has been turned over to the Illinois State Police Public Integrity Task Force to investigate, and their findings will be given to Lake County State's Attorney Michael Nerheim.
Preliminary results from an autopsy confirm Stinnette "died from injuries due to a gunshot," Lake County Coroner Dr. Howard Cooper announced Thursday morning.
When more information is available, Cooper said, he would hold a coroner's inquest in which a jury would examine the evidence and determine the manner of death, such as if it was a homicide.
Williams' mother, Clifftina Johnson, informed reporters at Thursday's protest that her daughter was out of surgery and told her she wanted to speak about what had happened.
"It doesn't matter how many shots y'all gave her, she still wants to speak," Johnson said. "My baby is still fighting."
Some speakers during the march and rally raised questions about the events that led to the shooting.
Waukegan resident Darrell Mosier addressed the media at the site of the shooting and said he was a witness. Mosier said the car driven by Williams was swerving in the intersection, the officer yelled "stop" once and started shooting at the couple inside.
After Williams was shot, she said she was sorry and that she wasn't trying to run into the officer, Mosier said, but he was not clear on who she was apologizing to.
Other speakers addressed the investigation.
Chris Blanks, of the Black Abolition Movement for the Mind, said he helped Stinnette's family file a FOIA request to obtain all the police body camera video footage from the shooting.
Francellis Stinnette Watts, Marcellis' great aunt, told reporters the family was not looking to retaliate, but they want justice.
"Once the bodycams come out, everyone is going to know the truth," Watts said.
McLemore said people are demanding Stinnette's death be investigated by the U.S. Department of Justice and not the Illinois State Police.
"We don't want the police investigating the police," said McLemore, who lives in Zion.
The crowd did not encounter any Waukegan Police officers during Thursday's march but there was evidence city employees had prepared. City hall closed and light barricades were set up outside the building and a large city vehicle would have prevented marchers from going north on West Street from its intersection with Washington Street.