The surviving victim of a police shooting in Waukegan, Illinois gave her version of the events that took place the night she was shot and her boyfriend was killed by police.
Tafara Williams sat in her hospital bed, still recovering from her wounds, and tearfully explained how a Waukegan police officer kept shooting at her and her boyfriend, even though they both had their hands up and were unarmed.
“They allowed him to die,” Williams said. “They wanted us to bleed out on the ground.”
On October 20 a Waukegan police officer wounded Williams and fatally shot her boyfriend and the father of her 7-month-old son, Marcellis Stinnette, during a traffic stop.
Police said the vehicle driven by Williams, with Stinnette in the passenger’s seat, fled a traffic stop. They said a short time later another officer encountered the vehicle. According to police, the vehicle moved in reverse towards the officer as he approached the vehicle and he opened fire out of fear for his own safety.
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.”
However, the version of events given by police appears to contradict the version given by Williams.
According to Williams, she and Stinnette were sitting in her car in front of her home smoking a cigarette, because they didn’t want to smoke near her child. She said an officer pulled up and started questioning her. She said the officer stated that he recognized Stinnette from when he was in jail.
“The officer called Marcellis by name,” Williams recalled. “He asked me, ‘Was I Tafara?’ and told me that I was Marcellis’ baby mother. Then he started harassing Marcellis. He stood near the car with his left hand on his gun and he said to Marcellis, ‘I know you from jail.'”
Williams said, after she and Stinnette raised their hands to show the officer that they were not armed, she asked the officer if they were free to leave or if they were under arrest.
“The officer took a few steps away from the car and got on his cellphone. I drove away very slowly because I was scared to get out of the car,” she said, adding that the officer did not follow them.
She said she drove to nearby Martin Luther King Boulevard and that it seemed like “another officer was there waiting for us.”
“There was a crash, I lost control, the officer was shooting at us,” she said, crying. “I was screaming, ‘I don’t have a gun,’ [but] he kept shooting … I kept asking him why he was shooting. My blood was gushing out … They would not give us an ambulance until we got out of the car.”
She said she could still hear Stinnette breathing and that she begged the officers on the scene to take him to the hospital first because he had recently had surgery, but they ignored her pleas.
“They ignored me,” Williams went on. “They laid Marcellis on the ground and covered him up with a blanket while he was still breathing. I know he was still alive. He was still breathing and they took me away … and allowed him to die.”
Waukegan police officials had no immediate response to Williams’ version of what transpired.
Civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who is also representing Tafara Williams, said the mayor of Waukegan has assured them that the family will soon be allowed to view police body camera footage of the shooting.
Waukegan mayor, Sam Cunningham, said dashcam and bodycam videos of the encounter would be made public after relatives of the shooting victims have viewed it.
Crump says he still intends to file a lawsuit against the city on behalf of Williams, seeking monetary damages and reforms in the police department in hopes of preventing a similar shooting from occurring.
The shooting prompted several peaceful protests in Waukegan as Mayor Cunningham and relatives of Stinnette’s have called for calm and for demonstrators to allow the investigation to unfold.
An independent investigation by the Illinois State Police and the FBI is ongoing.