Marcellis Stinnette, 19, was killed and his girlfriend and the mother of his child, Tafara Williams, was wounded when a police officer in Waukegan opened fire Tuesday night after police said Williams’ vehicle started rolling toward the officer following a traffic stop.
Williams’ mom said she visited her daughter in the hospital, where she is in serious condition.
“When I got there, she said, ‘Mama, they just shot us for nothing'” Cliftina Johnson told reporters on Wednesday. “My daughter said she put her hand up, and if she didn’t put her hand up, she said, ‘Mama, I would be dead.’”
The woman’s comments come as the relatives of the two who were shot, activists and even the family of a man who was shot by police in nearby Kenosha, Wisconsin, in August called on authorities to release more information about the Waukegan shooting as well as any video that might have shown what happened.
On Thursday, Lake County Coroner Dr. Howard Cooper identified the man who was fatally shot as Stinnette and said that preliminary autopsy results indicated he died “from injuries due to gunshot.”
Williams’ mother said her daughter asked about Stinnette, but that she did not have the heart to tell her that was dead.
Police have said that the pair were in a vehicle that fled a traffic stop late Tuesday. That vehicle was spotted a little later by another officer on patrol. While that officer was approaching the vehicle, it began moving in reverse, police said, and the officer opened fire. No weapon was found in the vehicle, police said.
Cooper said Stinnette’s death remains under investigation by Cooper’s office and Illinois State Police.
“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,” Cooper said in a statement.
The officer who shot the couple is Hispanic and a five-year veteran of the Waukegan Police Department. The officer who conducted the original traffic stop is white, police said.
A protest was scheduled for noon Thursday at the site of the shooting, followed by a march to police headquarters, said Clyde McLemore, the Lake County chapter president of Black Lives Matters. He called for calm.
“We’re not here to rip up our own town,” McLemore said.
Body camera and squad car video have been turned over to Illinois State Police, which will present findings to the local prosecutor’s office, Waukegan police Commander Edgar Navarro said.
Waukegan is about 15 miles (24 kilometers) south of Kenosha, Wisconsin, where nights of protests erupted after Jacob Blake, a Black man, was left paralyzed after being shot seven times in the back by police on Aug. 25. Kyle Rittenhouse, 17, of nearby Antioch, Illinois, is accused of shooting and killing two protesters two nights later.
Rittenhouse is scheduled to appear in Lake County Court in Waukegan next week for a hearing on whether he should be returned to Wisconsin to face homicide charges.
Blake’s uncle Justin Blake said it appeared that there were some similarities between what happened to his nephew and this week’s shooting in Waukegan. He urged police to release more information, including any videos.
“It seems like this started with some kind of traffic violation,” Blake told The Associated Press on Thursday ahead of the protest, which he planned to attend. “You think somebody deserved to die over a traffic stop?”
During a Wednesday news conference, Waukegan Mayor Sam Cunningham asked residents to wait until all the facts are known before reacting to the shooting of Stinnette. Lake County State’s Attorney Michael Nerheim noted in a statement that it may be several weeks before the investigation is complete.
Waukegan, about 40 miles (64 kilometers) north of Chicago, has a population of about 85,000, 55% of whom are white and 17% of whom are Black, according to U.S. Census Bureau figures. About 55% of the community’s residents are Hispanic.