‘Livid and outraged’: Community mourns after Waukegan coach, counselor fatally shot while driving

Waukegan High School coach Niolis Collazo was shot and killed Saturday while driving in Waukegan. (Courtesy of GoFundMe)

The deadly shooting Saturday night of Waukegan High School volleyball coach and middle school counselor Niolis Collazo has police looking for answers and city officials enraged.

“As a Waukegan resident and as mayor, I am livid and I am outraged,” Mayor Ann B. Taylor said in a statement Monday afternoon. “While we don’t know the details of how Ms. Collazo became the victim of gun violence in our hometown, I do know that this senseless and stupid use of guns on our streets must end.”

Collazo, a 23-year-old Waukegan resident, was fatally shot while driving in the area of 10th Street and Lewis Avenue at 10:36 p.m. Saturday, Waukegan police said Monday.

Police called to the area found two vehicles had been hit by gunfire, according to reports. The vehicles were traveling in different directions and there’s no known connection between them or their drivers, police said.

The unidentified driver of the first vehicle was not hit when a shot struck his vehicle, police said.

Collazo was taken to Vista East Medical Center, where she later died, police said.

A GoFundMe online fundraising page for funeral and burial expenses has been established.

Collazo graduated from Waukegan High School in 2018. She coached freshman boys volleyball at the school and also served as a counselor and mentor at Smith Middle School.

Members of the school district’s mental health response team were at both high school campuses and Smith on Monday.

“It is with great sadness that we report the unexpected passing of Ms. Niolis Collazo,” a message sent Monday to Waukegan Public Schools reads. “Our thoughts and prayers are with Ms. Collazo’s friends, family, and colleagues during this time.”

Taylor said she would do whatever she can to support the police investigation of the “horrific” crime.

“Ms. Collazo was a beloved coach, counselor and mentor, and on behalf of the city of Waukegan, I extend my deepest condolences to the Collazo family,” she said.

In February, Collazo began working with Chicago-based Youth Guidance on its Working on Womanhood program at Smith Middle School. The group counseling program provides cognitive behavioral therapy to students in grades 6 to 12 from high-risk and under-resourced communities, according to Youth Guidance.

“Niolis’s smile, laughter, kindness, warmth, presence and commitment to improving the lives of others through her work with Working on Womanhood will be greatly missed by her community and all that knew her,” Youth Guidance said in a statement.

Waukegan police are asking anyone with information to call their tip line at (847) 360-9001, text to 847411 using the keyword WPDTIP, call Lake County Crime Stoppers at (847) 662-2222, or use the Waukegan police anonymous tip app for iPhones and Android devices, available at the Apple App and Google Play stores as well as at www.waukeganil.gov.

In a related matter, a North Chicago man was arrested at about 1:30 a.m. Sunday after his vehicle crashed into a Waukegan police vehicle that was on the shooting scene as part of the investigation. Although unmarked, the vehicle had its blue and red emergency lights activated at the time, police said.

The crash knocked the unmarked vehicle into a marked patrol vehicle, resulting in a minor knee injury to an officer, police said.

David Marroquin-Hernandez, 40, of North Chicago is charged with aggravated driving under the influence, two counts of DUI, failure to yield to an emergency vehicle and having no valid driver’s license, police said.

Mick Zawislak - Daily Herald Media Group

Mick Zawislak has covered Lake County for the Daily Herald since 2002