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Waukegan police shooting victim says she begged for their lives: ‘Please don’t shoot, we have a baby’

Clifftina Johnson, center, the mother of Tafara Williams, who was wounded by a Waukegan police officer, is consoled as she cries to her stepdaughter Sasha Williams' singing of a song as she and others gather with family and friends outside of the Daniel T. Drew Municipal Center in Waukegan on Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020.

Clifftina Johnson, center, the mother of Tafara Williams, who was wounded by a Waukegan police officer, is consoled as she cries to her stepdaughter Sasha Williams' singing of a song as she and others gather with family and friends outside of the Daniel T. Drew Municipal Center in Waukegan on Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020. (Jose M. Osorio / Chicago Tribune)

Tafara Williams reiterated Tuesday that she and her boyfriend Marcellis Stinnette did nothing to cause the Waukegan police shooting last week in which she was wounded and Stinnette was killed.

She said she begged for their lives during the shooting.

“Please don’t shoot, we have a baby. We don’t want to die,” Williams said, describing the incident from her hospital room, where she is recovering from gunshot wounds.

Williams, 20, appeared via a Zoom link at a press conference called by her attorneys, and gave her first public account of the Oct. 20 incident on the city’s south side. She said she and Stinnette were sitting in her car, which was parked in front of her house. Williams said she had come outside to smoke when a police car pulled up behind her car.

The officer, she said, had his hand on his gun and asked for her name. The officer commented to Stinnette, “I know you from jail,” according to Williams.

Williams said that after getting the officer’s permission to leave, she drove away slowly, she turned south onto Martin Luther King Drive. Williams said it seemed as if another police officer was waiting for them as she turned.

“There was a crash, and I lost control,” Williams said. “But he kept shooting.” She did not elaborate on the details of the crash.

Handout photo of Marcellis Stinnette who was shot and killed by Waukegan police on October 20th.

Handout photo of Marcellis Stinnette who was shot and killed by Waukegan police on October 20th. (Family photo)

Her attorneys, Antonio Romanucci and Ben Crump, along with Williams' parents and other family members, met the media Tuesday at a press conference on the steps of Waukegan’s city hall. The attorneys, who are also involved in high-profile alleged police brutality incidents around the country, said they had come from a meeting with Waukegan Mayor Sam Cunningham, which they called positive.

“We want to make this city the model of transparency and accountability,” Romanucci said. “What Waukegan has done will give this family a sense of peace. It will not restore what has happened.”

He said the officer profiled the couple because they are Black.

“That was their crime,” he said.

The family of Tafara Williams, pictured on the back of several T-shirts, who was wounded by a Waukegan police officer, gather outside of Waukegan City Hall in Waukegan on Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020.

The family of Tafara Williams, pictured on the back of several T-shirts, who was wounded by a Waukegan police officer, gather outside of Waukegan City Hall in Waukegan on Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020. (Jose M. Osorio / Chicago Tribune)

Although Romanucci said the city’s pledges of transparency are encouraging, the family will file a lawsuit seeking monetary relief, but also policy changes.

“Waukegan has taken the right steps, but we need to make sure this doesn’t happen again,” he said.

Crump said he spoke with Williams about incidents involving Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and Jacob Blake – national cases where Crump is involved.

“When does it end, America?” Crump asked. “How many more Black people have to be killed because of police brutality, excessive force, implicit bias?”

Williams' parents, Tina Jones and Trevor Williams, also spoke.

Jones called her daughter, “the strongest person I’ve ever met. She loves everybody and has a heart of gold.”

“I ask the federal government to make this speedy because I can’t sleep at night,” Trevor Williams said.

Lake County authorities have said that the investigation could take several weeks before the results are turned over to the state’s attorney for review and possible charges.

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