Waukegan High School volleyball coach fatally shot in traffic

A Waukegan family and the suburban community are mourning the loss of 23-year-old Niolis Collazo, a volleyball coach and counselor in the city's schools.

Collazo was shot and killed Saturday night while driving home.

"She was my role model," said Mia Carani, Collazo’s sister. "Everything. I thought she was the most beautiful girl in the world."

Carani was on the phone with her sister when the shooting happened.

Waukegan Police say Collazo was driving home Saturday night when somebody began firing shots near the corner of 10th and Lewis, not far from her house.


Carani was headed home from her senior prom when her sister called to ask about some house keys.

"And I heard a loud shattering noise and her screaming, ‘ow ow ow,’" Carani recounted. "I said, ‘what’s going on? What’s wrong?’ She said ‘I got to call someone.’ And I never got a response back."

Police said Collazo was struck by a bullet while driving and was pronounced dead at the Vista East Medical Center. A bullet also hit another nearby car, but the man driving was uninjured.

Collazo’s stepfather, Terry Joiner, remembers a young woman who was quickly becoming an important part of the Waukegan community.

"Amazing person. Always cheerful. Always the person that if you had a problem, she was there," he said.

Collazo had just graduated from UW Oshkosh last December on her 23rd birthday, and was hired by a social service agency to work as a counselor advising girls at Smith Middle School in Waukegan.

She was also hired as an assistant freshman boys volleyball coach at her alma mater, Waukegan High School, where she had played volleyball as well.

"That’s what she loved. Volleyball," said Joiner. "So she did two things that she really enjoyed in life."

"I want to know who took my sister away, and I want them to get what they deserve," said Carani. "Justice, even though it won’t bring her back."

On Monday, counselors were made available to students both at the high school where Collazo coached and the middle of school where she counseled.

Waukegan police say no one is in custody in the shooting.

Anyone with information on the shooting is asked to contact Waukegan police at (847) 360-9001.