Waukegan fires police officer who shot, killed Black teenager in car

  • Marcellis Stinnette, 19, of Waukegan was shot and killed by Waukegan police Tuesday in what they say was self-defense.

    Marcellis Stinnette, 19, of Waukegan was shot and killed by Waukegan police Tuesday in what they say was self-defense. Courtesy of Clyde McLemore

 
 
Updated 10/23/2020 10:27 PM

The Waukegan police officer who shot and killed 19-year-old Marcellis Stinnette on Tuesday night and injured his girlfriend was fired Friday night, the city of Waukegan said.

"The City of Waukegan terminated the officer that discharged his firearm during that incident, for multiple policy and procedure violations," a brief news release said.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The news comes after the U.S. Department of Justice agreed to review the case, according to Lake County State's Attorney Michael Nerheim.

Nerheim contacted DOJ officials on Wednesday to request they "review the circumstances surrounding this incident," he said in a news release Friday, and the federal department agreed to.

"As I have said before, once the investigation is concluded, all the evidence will be reviewed and a final decision will be made with respect to any potential charges," Nerheim said. "Having all available resources and as many independent fresh eyes as possible is critical to this process."

Satrese Stallworth, Stinnette's cousin who has served as the family spokesperson, said the family is "really happy" to hear the news of the officer's firing.

"We're excited," Stallworth said. "We feel like we're accomplishing something, and we just want to see justice."

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"We still haven't seen any videos" of what occurred, she said, but "we are happy to see that something has been done about this."

It was something that the officer wasn't simply placed on administrative leave, Stallworth said.

"They don't just terminate you for no reason. So evidently they have evidence showing that the officer was definitely in the wrong," she said.

The shooting happened shortly before midnight Tuesday, Waukegan police said, when an officer fired into a vehicle 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 and acted in self-defense.

The gunshots struck Stinnette, who was a passenger, and his girlfriend, Tafara Williams, the driver. Williams suffered serious injuries but is expected to recover, officials said.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

After the shooting, the Illinois State Police Public Integrity Task Force was called in to investigate.

More than 100 people marched from the site of the shooting to the Waukegan City Hall Thursday afternoon as part of a protest organized by the Lake County chapter of Black Lives Matter. Clyde McLemore, who founded the chapter, said several times during the protest that he wanted the DOJ to investigate the shooting because he felt police shouldn't be investigating police.

McLemore said Friday he was happy that the Department of Justice was getting involved.

"That was one of our first demands," McLemore said. "Now we're asking that a special prosecutor be brought in. We don't want the findings of the DOJ to go to a Lake County prosecutor."

He said the organization also wanted the officer who shot Stinnette and Williams to be fired, arrested and prosecuted instead of being placed on paid leave.

McLemore said his chapter of Black Lives Matter is holding another protest at 4 p.m. Saturday at Liberty and Oak streets in Waukegan.

Stallworth said earlier the family is ecstatic that the Department of Justice will be involved.

"They were grateful, because we didn't want the police handling this," she said.

"... This is still so surreal for the family, and we're just trying to deal with it as best as possible."

She said, however, that ultimately the family wants the Illinois attorney general's office to handle the case. "We were definitely not comfortable with the Illinois State Police handling the case."

Stinnette's grandmother is especially distraught, Stallworth said, because Stinnette moved to the area from Florida almost two years ago to be with his grandmother.

"I just appreciate the fact that (Nerheim) did something that was helpful and beneficial for the family. He seemed very sincere," she said.

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