WAUKEGAN, Ill. — A 20-year-old woman who was seriously injured when a Waukegan police officer shot her and killed her boyfriend is suing the officer who opened fire and the officer who initially questioned them minutes earlier. The family of her boyfriend has also filing a lawsuit.
Tafara Williams’ lawsuit was filed late Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Chicago against the officer who fired the shots the night of Oct. 20, the officer who stopped the couple earlier that evening, and the city of Waukegan. The famiky of 19-year-old Marcellis Stinnette, who was fatally shot, filed a federal lawsuit on Thursday.
WGN is not naming the officers in the lawsuits because they have not been charged with a crime.
Waukegan police have said that Williams, 20, and her boyfriend Stinnette fled after an officer approached the car they were sitting in. Police said a second officer later stopped the couple’s car. They have said that as one of the officers approached, the vehicle started moving in reverse and the officer opened fire.
Williams’ lawsuit disputes the contention that the officer who fired the shots feared for his life because the car was coming toward him and says a witness also disputes that version of events. It accuses him of using excessive force when he fired at Williams and Stinnette as they sat in Williams’ car, unarmed.
The lawsuit also contends that the second officer had no reason to confront the couple in the first place, as they sat in Williams’ vehicle smoking and talking.
In one of the videos of the incident released by the mayor on Wednesday, an officer is heard telling Stinnette that he was under arrest. When he asks why, an officer says, “Because I said.” The officer is seen approaching the vehicle and later says, “Because he has a warrant.”
The officer then says, “You can come out,” and the vehicle is seen driving away. Williams was behind the wheel that night. The officer then says, “Hey they just ran me over.”
In dashcam video, the moments leading up to the shooting are seen — an officer gets out of his squad car and the vehicle he was chasing appears to go in reverse. The actual shooting is not seen on video, but about half dozen gunshots are heard going off. A crash is then heard as the car backs up into a building.
When the officer turns his camera on, Williams can be heard screaming and saying, “I didn’t do anything wrong.”
“I was right behind you and you tried to run me over,” the officer replies.
Moments later, the woman is heard saying, “Why did you shoot us?”
The lawsuit also contends that the city of Waukegan knew or should have known that the two officers had “dangerous propensities for abusing authority, making false arrests.”
The lawsuit includes many allegations that Williams and her attorneys have made during press briefings this week. For example, before the attorneys in the lawsuit argued that Williams did not drive in the direction of the officer, they said on Wednesday that he was lying when he said in a recording from his body camera that Williams had tried to run him over.
Family members and attorneys are outraged that the officer did not have his camera on turning key moments. The Lake County state’s attorney will decide if the officer will be charged.
Mayor Sam Cunningham released the videos and said the officer’s bodycam was not “properly activated to properly archive the time of the shooting.
“This was a breach of Waukegan Police Department policies, and one of the reasons for the officer’s termination,” the mayor said.
According to the Associated Press, a check of filings in the same federal court reveals that in August, a man sued that officer alleging that in 2019, the officer struck him in the face with his gun, causing several bone fractures and lacerations.
In that lawsuit, Angel Salgado contends he was outside the house of his nephew for a baptism party when that officer while on patrol threatened him and pointed his weapon and “deployed his taser” at Salgado. Salgado acknowledged that he resisted arrest and said in the suit that he has since pleaded guilty to that charge.