Lawyers for Black couple shot by police outside Chicago claim officer’s body camera was turned off intentionally

Graig Graziosi
·3-min read
Marcellis Stinnette and Tafara Williams allegedly attempt to flee from police moments before a Waukegan, Illinois police officer steps out of the car and shoots them on 20 Oct.  (Waukegan Police Department)
Marcellis Stinnette and Tafara Williams allegedly attempt to flee from police moments before a Waukegan, Illinois police officer steps out of the car and shoots them on 20 Oct. (Waukegan Police Department)

A body camera worn by a police officer was only turned on after he shot a Black couple in a car following a police chase.

Marcellis Stinnette, 19 and Tafara Williams, 20, were shot following a short police chase through the suburb of Waukegan, on the outskirts of Chicago. Mr Stinnette was killed and Ms Williams was wounded.

Lawyers representing Ms Williams are alleging that the officer's decision not to have the body camera on is indicative of a cover-up by the police department.

“It's like he was trying to cover up a narrative to justify this use of excessive force,” attorney Ben Crump told reporters on Tuesday shortly before the city of Waukegan published six videos of the incident for view by the public.

The officer, who has not been identified, said he opened fire because he feared for his life, claiming the couple were attempting to hit him with their car.

One of the videos released by the city includes a moment when Ms Williams calls out from her car "why'd you shoot us?" The officer yells back that he was afraid she was going to run him over with her car.

In one of the videos, the car can be seen reversing fast before colliding with a house in the moments just after the shooting.

When other people arrive on the scene, the officer yells "they almost ran me over".

Antonio Romanucci, an attorney representing Ms Williams, accused the officer of lying.

“That is the false narrative that we continue to talk about. This police officer has zero — absolute zero — credibility,” Mr Romanucci said. “There should be no weight given to his self-serving statement for the use of deadly force against what clearly appears to be a stationary car, and his feet were stationary at the same time.”

Mr Crump – who has also represented the families of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Aubrey as well as Jacob Blake – said the fact that the officer's camera was off suggests either lack of training or malicious intent.

"It’s regrettable when you have officers who either were not trained properly or who intentionally and consciously made an effort not to turn on their bodycam video so we would see what they did to cause the death of Marcellis Stinnette and horrific injuries to Tafara Williams,” he said. “What we saw was just bits and pieces. ... There was no need to use this excessive deadly force. There was no need. It was a traffic stop.”

The officer was fired days after the shooting for not turning on his body camera.

Ms Williams claimed from her hospital bed that the officers at the scene did not act quickly enough to save his life; she claimed they only gave him a blanket.

'They allowed him to die," she said. "They wanted us to bleed out on the ground."

She claimed she and Mr Stinnette did nothing to provoke the shooting.

The officer – a Hispanic man – could face charges following the state's investigation.

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