Last week, The Root reported that 19-year old Marcellis Stinnette was fatally shot by a police officer in Waukegan, Ill.—a suburb of Chicago—while sitting in the passenger seat of a car his girlfriend, Tafara Williams, was driving on Oct. 20.
Williams was also shot but survived her wounds, and as she recovered in the hospital over the weekend, she spoke out from her bed calling for justice and lamenting that “my son don’t have a father no more, but I’m fighting for him, and I’m in this hospital, and I’m trying to be strong.”
On Wednesday, Waukegan police released body camera and dashcam footage of the altercation that began when an officer “was investigating an occupied vehicle,” according to a press release, NBC News reports. The released footage doesn’t show everything, but it does shed some light on what occurred that night.
The body camera footage released Wednesday did not show the officer approaching the vehicle but began when he asked for the couple’s names. It was unclear what happened before the video started recording.
The two-minute video starts as the officer asks whether Stinnette is “that dude that got in an accident” and then asks their name.
It sounds as if Stinnette tells the officer that his name is King, and the officer responds, “I thought you were one of the Stinnette kids” and approaches the car. The officer asks if his name is Marcellis, and then informs him he is under arrest.
“Why?” Williams is heard asking in the video.
“Because I said,” the officer said.
Williams said Tuesday she asked if they were free to leave or under arrest. She said she began to drive away as the officer stepped away from her car to make a cellphone call.
In the body camera footage, the officer can be heard telling Stinnette three times that he is under arrest. The second time, the officer says Stinnette “got a warrant.”
The footage shows the officer telling Stinnette to exit the vehicle, with his hand on the car, when Williams speeds off.
“Hey, they just ran me over,” the officer shouts as the car drives away. It’s unclear from the video whether the car made any contact with the officer.
In dashcam footage taken from the car of the officer who fired the shots—who still hasn’t been named but was fired last Friday for “multiple police and procedure violations,” according to the Associated Press—the officer is seen in pursuit of Williams’ car. The car eventually pulls over and the officer pulls up behind her. Williams’ car is only partially visible in the footage and it’s unclear whether the officer exited his car, but he can be heard shouting at her to “get out of the fucking car” just before Williams appears to reverse and shots are heard. Security video caught Williams crashing her car presumably after the shooting began.
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“There was a crash, and I lost control. The officer was shooting at us. The car ended up slamming into a building. I kept screaming, ‘I don’t have a gun!’ but he kept shooting,” Williams said. The audio from the video does not make clear whether Williams made the statements as the officer fired.
Body camera footage from the second officer picks up after the shooting, with the officer standing across the street from Williams and Stinnette, who remain in the car near a building. That video begins with Williams yelling that the couple “didn’t do anything wrong” at the officer who fired the shots.
“I was right behind you and you almost tried to run me over,” the officer yells.
Backup officers arrive and begin asking what happened and who was shot. At one point, Williams yells, “why did you shoot us” and “all I did was reverse.” Her attention then turns to Stinnette.
“He got shot, he got shot,” Williams yelled. “Please help.”
CNN reports that attorneys representing Williams’ family say the officer had no reason to fire so many shots and they questioned why his body camera wasn’t 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,” attorney Antonio Romanucci said Wednesday, CNN reports.
Civil attorney Ben Crump is also representing Williams and he told reporters that the officer who shot the couple either wasn’t well trained or he “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.”
“There was no need to use this excessive deadly force,” Crump continued. “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? What is it about young Black people that makes police officers want to pull triggers?”
According to CNN, the Illinois State Police is leading the investigation into the shooting and the Lake County State’s Attorney’s Office will decide if anyone involved in the altercation will be charged with crimes. Lake County attorney Michael Nerheim said that if no criminal charges are filed, he will make the investigative file public.