'We want to know why': Waukegan family mourns, questions why Marcellis Stinnette died

  • Marcellis Stinnette

    Marcellis Stinnette

Updated 10/22/2020 7:16 PM

The family of Marcellis Stinnette called for answers Thursday, anguished over the death of the 19-year-old man who was a passenger in a car when he was shot by a Waukegan police officer.

"It's unfortunate this happened and the family is seeking justice," said Satrese Stallworth, a relative of Stinnette and a spokeswoman for the family.


"He had such a bright future ... a whole lifetime of opportunity ahead of him. We want to know why this even occurred."

Stinnette, a Black Waukegan resident, died of injuries from a gunshot wound Tuesday night after a police officer fired on the vehicle he was sitting in.

The car driven by Stinnette's girlfriend reversed as the officer approached and the officer acted in self-defense, Waukegan Police Department officials said.

That account is disputed by a witness and the driver, Tafara Williams of Waukegan, who contend the officer rammed the car and began shooting, Lake County Black Lives Matter founder Clyde McLemore told the Daily Herald.

"We're fighting for someone to be held accountable," Stallworth said. "There's lot of unanswered questions. We'd like to know why a round of bullets was released into the vehicle during a routine traffic stop."

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Stinnette was born and raised in Jacksonville, Florida, and moved to Waukegan two years ago to live with his grandmother.

"He was a kind, loving young man," Stallworth said. She characterized the 19-year-old as quiet, peaceful and a good father. Stinnette and Williams are parents to a young child.

Williams, a Black woman in her 20s, was seriously injured in the shooting but is expected to recover, officials said.

No firearm was found in the car.

"There was no weapon, no threat," Stallworth said. "Why release a round of bullets into the car and take his life? He was the passenger. He wasn't the driver."

Police say an officer, who is white, was investigating a suspicious vehicle that fled near Liberty and Oak streets. A second officer, who is Hispanic, located the vehicle a few blocks away when the shooting occurred.

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.

The family is hearing multiple and conflicting versions of the encounter that include assertions Williams did not flee the first police officer but had been allowed to proceed, Stallworth said.

Waukegan police had no comment on the differing descriptions of the encounters.

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