An Illinois city is reeling after police fatally shot a Black teenager who was the passenger in a vehicle that reversed toward an officer, authorities said Thursday. The shooting, which occurred close to midnight on Tuesday, left the driver of the vehicle hospitalized and sparked protests in the city of Waukegan.
The local police department said in a statement that an officer was “investigating an occupied vehicle” when the suspects fled the scene. Later, a second officer spotted and approached the vehicle, which they said began moving in reverse toward him. The officer, who feared for his safety, fired his semi-automatic pistol, the department said.
The passenger, 19-year-old Marcellis Stinnette, was taken to a nearby hospital where he died of his injuries, police said. A preliminary autopsy determined that Stinnette died from gunshot wounds. Police said no weapons were found inside the vehicle.
“We have been in close contact with Mr. Stinnette’s family and our deepest condolences go out to them during this difficult time. This is truly a tragedy,” said Dr. Howard Cooper, the coroner in Lake County.
The driver, who police only identified as a woman in her 20s, was hospitalized with serious injuries but is expected to recover.
She was later identified as Tafara Williams, who was Stinnette’s girlfriend. Her mother, Clifftina Johnson, told reporters that her daughter said she was pleading for her life during the incident. “She said that she wanted to see her babies. She said she wanted to see her babies,” Johnson said.
Mayor Sam Cunningham said he knows the families of both Stinnette and Williams and admitted that he’s worried about the impact the shooting will have on Waukegan, which is located about 40 miles north of Chicago. “I’m a Black man who grew up in that same neighborhood. It could have been me,” Cunningham told reporters Wednesday.
“I’m nervous because there’s a lot of uncertainty out there. There’s a lot of rumors flying around. We’re begging, whatever information you have, get it to us. Whatever footage that you have, get it to us,” he added. “We’ve seen this play out throughout this country, but it just rips through communities.”
Illinois State Police are investigating the shooting and reviewing videos from the officers’ body cameras and dashcams. The officer who opened fire has been placed on administrative leave.