Short clips from surveillance footage and police body and dashboard cameras provide some answers — but yield even more questions — about the shooting that left a Black teenager, Marcellis Stinnette, dead in Waukegan, Illinois.
Stinnette’s girlfriend, Tafara Williams, has said she slowly drove away from an October 20 police stop outside her home after an officer put his hand on his gun and harassed her and Stinnette, 19. But video of the stop shows the officer tell Stinnette he has a warrant for his arrest before Williams flees the scene.
“Hey, they just ran me over,” says the officer, who has his hand on Williams’ vehicle when she takes off.
The next clip begins with a squad car speeding toward Williams’ car. She pulls out in front of the police cruiser, passes another police car, red-and-blues flashing, and blows through a stop sign. She takes a right turn, drives onto the opposite shoulder and hits a telephone pole guy wire.
The officer tailing her exits his car and begins to order the pair to, “Get out of the f**king–” before an engine revs and seven shots are fired, followed by a crash. Because the police car’s dashcam is facing to the right of the shooting, the shooting is not captured and the officer’s orientation to Williams’ car is not clear.
Surveillance video shows, after the shooting, Williams drives backward into a building.
Authorities have said the officer opened fire after Williams reversed toward him, while Williams recalled earlier this week that the first officer did not chase her when she left the initial stop and a second officer opened fire without warning.
“There was a crash, and I lost control. The officer was shooting at us. The car ended up slamming into a building,” she told reporters Tuesday, sobbing uncontrollably from her hospital bed. “I kept screaming, ‘I don’t have a gun,’ but he kept shooting, and he told me to get out of the car.”
The Hispanic officer who killed Stinnette has been fired, Waukegan Police Chief Wayne Walles said last week without detailing the “multiple policy and procedures violations” the officer allegedly committed. The White officer who attempted to arrest Stinnette was placed on administrative leave. Neither has been named, and both are five-year veterans of the force, police say.
‘You almost tried to run me over’
The city released five short clips — none shows the actual shooting — but the moments before and after are clear.
Attorneys for Williams’ family say the terminated officer had no cause to shoot as many times as he did, and they’ve questioned why he didn’t have his body camera turned on.
“It’s very sad that we will not be able to see the truth by video, but instead it’s going to be left up to the legal team to reconstruct and re-animate this event in order to get us as close to transparency as we can,” lawyer Antonio Romanucci said Wednesday.
Co-counsel Ben Crump said the officer who opened fire was either not trained properly or “intentionally and consciously made an effort not to turn on the bodycam video so we would not see what they did to cause the death of Marcellis Stinnette and the horrific injuries to Tafara Williams.”
Crump further accused the officer of waiting for his bodycam’s 30-second audio delay to pass before accusing Williams of trying to hit him, “almost as if he knew at that point he had messed up and he’s trying to come up with a narrative.”
As soon as the bodycam’s audio kicks in, the officer yells to Williams, “I was right behind you, and you almost tried to run me over.”
Williams asks another policeman why they were shot, and he seems confused, asking them, “Who shot you?” When his counterpart acknowledges shooting the pair, the officer asks, “You did?”
“They almost ran me over,” the officer says.
“No, I didn’t mean to. Officer, I was backing up,” Williams calls from the car.
Video shows Williams flee
From her hospital bed this week, Williams told reporters she had just put her children to bed and gone outside to smoke when an officer walked up. Police say the officer was inspecting a suspicious vehicle. Williams rolled down her windows and turned on the lights in the car, she said, which the police bodycam shows.
The officer, she said, placed his hand on his gun and told Stinnette he knew him from jail, which cannot be seen or heard on the clip. Nor is there evidence that she asked if they were free to leave, as she has asserted.
Williams said she slowly drove away from the scene, but the bodycam footage shows an abrupt and speedy departure. The officer still has his hand on the car and says, “Hey! Hey! Hey!” as she drives away.
Williams said no one gave chase, which comports with the bodycam video. The officer does not immediately pursue them, instead calling for backup and identifying Williams and Stinnette by name.
Following the crash, Williams said, “blood was gushing out of my body” and officers would not call an ambulance until she got out of the car. An officer dragged her away from Stinnette, she said, and she begged police to tend to her boyfriend first.
“They ignored me. They laid Marcellis on the ground and covered him up with a blanket while he was still breathing,” the 20-year-old mother of two said. “I know he was still alive.”
Police say Stinnette died after being transported to a hospital.
Though the video clips don’t show much from the shooting’s aftermath, Crump and Romanucci said Wednesday that there were no bullet holes in the windshield, only in the driver’s door, though the attorneys conceded they hadn’t inspected the actual car. Video of the car crashing into a building appears too grainy to make out bullet holes.
Lawyer: Officer had other options
The five videos were released after protests demanding justice in the Chicago suburb of 86,000 people. The clips are:
• Bodycam footage of the initial traffic stop with Williams fleeing the scene;
• Dashcam video showing a few seconds of the pursuit before the crash, along with the audio of the gunshots;
• Surveillance video of Williams’ car hitting the guy wire (the squad car is off camera);
• Surveillance footage of Williams, post-shooting, slamming into a building;
• And the officer’s bodycam catching Williams’ interaction with police after the crash.
Despite the questions left unanswered by the videos — namely, the officer’s orientation to the car when he shot — Crump has said the officer had other options.
“There was no need to use this excessive deadly force,” he said. “It was a traffic stop. You have the tags. You know who they are. Why do you have to shoot them? Why do you have to kill Black people by shooting first and asking questions later when we see over and over again in other communities, in other neighborhoods you show great restraint?”
He added, “What is it about young Black people that makes police officers want to pull triggers?”
While police have said the officer opened fire “in fear for his safety” as Williams reversed toward him, Mayor Sam Cunningham said the officer’s decision not to activate his bodycam before the shooting was a breach of police department policy “and one of the reasons for the officer’s termination.”
The Waukegan Police Department and Waukegan Police Patrolmen’s Union did not respond to CNN’s request for comment. A law firm representing the city promised to release “a number of relevant and responsive documents concerning the officers involved in the shooting incident” in coming days.
The Illinois State Police is leading the investigation into the shooting. Lake County State’s Attorney Michael Nerheim, whose office will decide whether to pursue charges, has pledged to make the investigative file public if he does not file criminal charges.