Illinois Injury Report: What You Should Know About the Shooting of Marcellis Stinnette by Waukegan Police

Oct 30, 2020

Marcellis Stinnette

Photos Courtesy of Chicago Sun Times

Today’s post continues Coffman Law’s “Illinois Injury Report” blog series, which summarizes and reports the latest news in Illinois concerning the areas of personal injury, police misconduct, COVID-related lawsuits, and more. Most recently, we covered a group of multi-million dollar crash case settlements and updated readers on several high-profile COVID-related cases ongoing in Illinois courts. Today, our post focuses on the fatal shooting of 19-year-old Marcellis Stinnette by police in Waukegan, Illinois. The blog provides a summary of all information that has been publicly released as of October 28, 2020, and highlights the significant differences in the narrative being pushed by Waukegan police versus that of Stinnette’s girlfriend, Tafara Williams. Finally, this post concludes by discussing what readers should look for in the coming weeks while police and Stinnette’s lawyers continue investigating the circumstances surrounding the shooting.

Waukegan Police Shoot into Vehicle, Killing Passenger

In the late evening hours on Tuesday, October 20, a Waukegan police officer approached a parked vehicle claiming to be investigating a “suspicious vehicle.” According to the officer – an unnamed five-year veteran of the Waukegan Police Department – as he approached the two occupants, the vehicle fled from the scene. Shortly thereafter, another officer – also an unnamed five-year veteran on the force – identified the same “suspicious vehicle” about a half mile away from the original scene. The officer started walking towards the vehicle, but according to official reports, the vehicle reversed towards the officer. Allegedly “fear[ing] for his safety,” the officer opened fire into the vehicle.

The officer’s bullets struck two passengers inside the vehicle: the driver, 20-year-old Tafara Williams and her boyfriend, 19-year-old Marcellis Stinnette. Williams reportedly suffered several gunshot wounds, but she is expected to recover. However, Stinnette’s wounds proved fatal, as he was pronounced dead at the hospital shortly after the shooting. Both anonymous officers involved in this tragic situation were placed on administration leave, and on October 26, the City of Waukegan announced that it had terminated the officer who fired the shots “for multiple policy and procedure violations.” No further details have yet been provided regarding the identities of these officers or what specific policies were violated by the terminated officer.

Victim’s Girlfriend, Tafara Williams, Offers Contradictory Account of Shooting

One week after the shooting, Tafara Williams allowed reporters into her hospital room to interview her while she continued to recover from her gunshot wounds. In the interview, Williams publicly denounced the City of Waukegan’s account of the shooting and highlighted a number of problematic aspects of the City’s narrative. Most notably, Williams stated that, after the officer fired a number of shots into the car, Stinnette was seriously wounded but still alive. Williams reportedly begged police to tend to her boyfriend first, but according to Williams, “[t]hey ignored her. They laid Marcellis on the ground and covered him up with a blanket while he was still breathing.”

With respect to how this situation began, Williams stated that she had just put her two babies down for bed when she went outside with Stinnette to smoke. When a police car pulled up behind them, Williams rolled down her windows and turned on the lights inside the car “so the officer could see [she] had no weapons and wasn’t doing anything illegal.” Williams also claimed that the officer harassed her boyfriend by standing near the car with his hand on his gun, telling Stinnette that he remembered him from jail.

After this interaction, Williams allegedly asked the officer if she was free to leave, and when the officer stepped away from the car, she drove away slowly. According to Williams, the officer did not turn on his lights or attempt to follow her. However, a few blocks later, Williams reported that “there was a crash, and [she] lost control.” “The officer was shooting at us,” she said, and “[t]he car ended up slamming into a building.” Williams’s final memories of this horrific scene include blood “gushing out of [her] body” while she begged for an ambulance and medical care for her boyfriend. Williams and Stinnette have a 7-month-old son together.

What to Expect Moving Forward

The investigation into the fatal shooting of Marcellis Stinnette is in its early stages, so this is still a very fluid situation. However, there are a few important details of this case that readers should watch out for in the coming weeks and months.

First of all, there was reportedly video footage of the incident in question, and the City of Waukegan released these videos on October 28 (which can be seen HERE). The release of these videos, though, has almost created more questions than there were before. While these videos do shed some light on the interactions between the vehicle passengers and police (such as police vaguely referencing a warrant for Stinnette and Williams insisting that she did nothing wrong), they do not directly show the shooting or Williams allegedly trying to hit the second police officer with her car. In fact, Williams’s attorney Benjamin Crump emphasized that Waukegan police had their body cameras turned off during key moments of the incident.

The fact that Williams already hired a prominent civil rights attorney also strongly suggests that we should expect to see a civil lawsuit filed against the City of Waukegan and the involved officers. Williams and her lawyer may wait until more information is revealed by the Waukegan Police Department, but regardless of the timing, a federal lawsuit should be expected in the near future unless the City decides to settle this matter prior to litigation.

Finally, the investigation itself is another key point to watch going forward. There are a number of important questions that still remain unanswered, such as: (1) whether Stinnette did have a warrant out for his arrest, as was suggested in the dash camera footage; (2) whether Williams actually backed her vehicle up towards the officer, causing him to fear for his life; (3) if criminal charges will be filed against any of the officers involved in the shooting; and (4) whether the involved officers had any history of misconduct, to name just a few. Additionally, there have been calls by Stinnette’s and Williams’s families for the U.S. Department of Justice to take over the investigation, so it will be interesting to see whether the Waukegan Police Department and the Lake County State’s Attorney’s defer to an outside party to finish the investigation.

As mentioned above, the investigation into Marcellis Stinnette’s death is still ongoing. Be sure to stay tuned to the Coffman Law blog, as we will continue updating our readers on the latest and most important news in the areas of civil rights, police misconduct, personal injury cases, and more.

About Coffman Law Offices, P.C.

Coffman Law is Chicago’s leading personal injury law firm and is committed to providing superb legal representation for people who are suffering from severe personal injuries or are dealing with the loss of a loved one due to police misconduct. Coffman Law is a results-driven law firm focused on ensuring that clients receive the compassion, attention, and consideration that they need to seek adequate compensation for injuries or loss. The firm is led by Owner and Founding Partner Brian Coffman, who has dedicated his career to helping accident victims navigate the legal system and obtain compensation for their injuries. If you have been injured or lost a loved one, contact Coffman Law today for a free consultation.