The incident has sparked outrage in the community, where a large group of citizens gathered in protest Thursday outside police department headquarters, prompting Waukegan Mayor Sam Cunningham to urge calm.
“This is tough on Waukegan. This is tough on this community,” Cunningham said at a Wednesday news conference. “I know these families personally.”
The couple’s encounter with police began shortly before midnight Tuesday when an officer showed up to investigate a “suspicious vehicle,” according to a statement by Waukegan Police Department Commander Edgar Navarro.
ABC News reports that the car sped off as the officer approached, but it was soon pulled over by another unit.
“That officer exited his vehicle and the vehicle that he was investigating began to reverse toward the officer,” Navarro said, according to ABC. “The officer then pulled out his duty weapon and fired into the vehicle that was reversing. Both occupants were struck.”
Navarro confirmed that the woman driving the car was wounded. Stinnette, meanwhile, was transported to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
Police found no weapons in the car.
Navarro would not release the name of the officers who are both five-year veterans of the department and been placed on administrative leave, ABC reported.
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Both officer’s body camera footage and video from their squad car dash cameras have been turned over to the Illinois State Police, which is now investigating the case, the report said.
“We’re also upset. It is something our community, our police department has great concern over, and it’s difficult for all of us,” Navarro said, according to ABC.
Cunningham, Waukegan’s first African American mayor who was elected in 2017, said he grew up across the street from Stinnette’s grandmother and was friends with his mother, Clifftina “Tina” Johnson.
“To be able to speak to them about this, yes, it hurts,” he said. “It just doesn’t hurt me, the police department — it hurts Waukegan, Illinois.”
Cunningham expressed concern about the potential explosiveness of the matter given the current climate in the country over the issue of police shootings.
“Yes, I’m nervous. I’m nervous because there’s a lot of uncertainty out there, there’s a lot of rumors flying around. I’m nervous for Waukegan. We’ve seen this play out throughout this country. It just rips through communities and it takes years to rebuild.”
The tensions being felt in Waukegan this week mimicked those that gripped the country after the videotaped death of 46-year-old George Floyd on Memorial Day as a Minneapolis police officer held him down with a knee to his neck for nearly eight minutes.
Calls for justice have been ongoing since with multiple other incidents, including the shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin in August, keeping the topic in the headlines and protests in the streets.
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Kenosha is only 15 miles away from where Tuesday’s shooting happened.
A month ago, former Louisville Metro Police Department Officer Brett Hankison was the only deputy indicted in connection with the March shooting of Breonna Taylor, but he was not charged with murder.
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Hankison, who was fired in June, has pleaded not guilty to three counts of first-degree wanton endangerment unrelated to Taylor’s death for shooting into neighboring apartments on the night of the raid.
Since the charges were handed down, two grand jurors came forward and said Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron did not give them the option to charge the Hankison and two fellow officers — Jonathan Mattingly and Myles Cosgrove — with murder. Last week a judge allowed them to speak publicly about the panel’s decision.