Police videos showing a suburban Chicago police officer fatally shooting a Black man and wounding a Black woman will be released Wednesday once relatives have seen the footage, attorneys representing the families say.
Waukegan Mayor Sam Cunningham said during a Sunday prayer vigil for Marcellis Stinnette, 19, who died in the shooting last Tuesday, that the city intended to publicly release the bodycam and dashcam videos, but only after Stinnette’s family had seen them.
On Wednesday, Antonio Romanucci and Ben Crump, attorneys for Tafara Williams -- who was wounded in the shooting and remains hospitalized -- announced that officers neglected to turn on their body cameras for the shooting.
"Regrettably, I have to inform you that we are going to fail in having full transparency and accountability for what happened that night," Romanucci said. "body worn cameras that were available for this very purpose for what we desire and seek accountability, transparency, the truth, were not turned on until after the shooting occurred."
Romanucci continued saying they he has no doubt that the use of force was excessive and constitutional rights were violated despite the lack of video evidence.
The attorneys said the six to seven shots fired, all heard over the dashcam, solely struck the driver's side door with no defects in the windshield. Attorneys said this indicated the officers intentionally aimed at Stinnette and Williams.
"We need full transparency. We need better training of officers," Crump said. "We need to have them think about our children as people and not targets."
Romanucci said video will likely be released Wednesday afternoon to the public, but does not have a specific time.
According to Romanucci, there is a 30 second period after police turn on a bodycam that audio remains silent. Based on the video, Romanucci said an officer turned on the bodycam following the shooting and shouted, "you tried to run me over" in the direction of Williams.
In a later press conference, Kevin O'Connor, attorney for the Stinnette family, said Marcellis was pulled from the vehicle alive, based on the video he saw. He said the officers waited eight minutes to call for medical assistance.
Activists and relatives of Stinnette and Williams, 20, have demanded the release of the police video, which authorities say has been turned over to investigators. On Saturday, Williams spoke from her hospital bed to a crowd at a rally in Waukegan, about 40 miles north of Chicago, saying she “won’t sleep until Marcellis gets justice.” The couple were dating and had a child together.
Activist Chris Blanks said last week that the video is particularly important because the police version of events and the version Williams’ mother has shared appear to contradict each other. Clifftina Johnson has said her daughter told her that she and Stinnette did nothing to provoke the officer.
Waukegan police have said Williams was driving and Stinnette was a passenger in a vehicle that fled a traffic stop conducted by a white officer late Tuesday and that the vehicle was later spotted by another officer, who is Hispanic. Police said that as the second officer approached, the vehicle started moving in reverse and the officer — fearing for his safety — opened fire. No weapon was found in the vehicle.
The officer who shot the couple was fired late Friday by Waukegan Police Chief Wayne Walles. He said in a brief statement that the male officer, a five-year department veteran, had committed “multiple policy and procedure violations.”
Walles offered his condolences to Stinnette and Williams’ families during Sunday’s vigil, which attracted a large crowd, the (Arlington Heights) Daily Herald reported.
“There is power in prayer, and the more of us that are together and praying, and praying for each other and everybody involved in this terrible incident, will help us heal and move forward,” he said.
Williams’ sister, Sasha Williams, said at Sunday’s vigil that her sister is working to recover her strength so she can return to caring for her children.
“We shouldn’t have to say, ‘Don’t shoot us,’” Williams said. “We shouldn’t have to come outside and fear for our lives. We shouldn’t be afraid of the police.”
Lake County State’s Attorney Mike Nerheim also attended Sunday’s vigil. He said Friday that he had asked the U.S. Justice Department to review the circumstances surrounding the shooting, and said the federal agency had agreed to do so. He has urged calm while the investigation takes place and pledged transparency.