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Family renews calls for charges against Waukegan officer who shot and killed 19-year-old

Family and community members are renewing calls for the arrest of a Waukegan police officer who shot and killed a 19-year-old man after his girlfriend nearly hit the officer with her car following a pursuit in October.

The parents of Tafara Williams appeared alongside Lake County Black Lives Matter leaders on Wednesday during a press conference, the Chicago Tribune reported.

The press conference was held to publicly appeal for the arrest of former Waukegan police officer Dante Salinas.

“It hurts to the core of me that people don’t care what goes on,” Johnson said, the Tribune reported. “We keep being quiet. No one is hearing us as we hurt. We must speak out as a community.”

Lake County Black Lives Matter Founder Clyde McLemore claimed on Wednesday that the initial encounter between police and the couple was an example of racial profiling.

Marcellis Stinnette, 19, of Waukegan. | Family provided photo.

“Something is very wrong in our country when police can racially profile an innocent black man just sitting in a car with his girlfriend, kill him and never be charged with a crime, much less be arrested,” McLemore said, the Tribune reported.

Waukegan Police Chief Wayne Walles said after the October 20 shooting that Officer Salinas, who is Hispanic and had five years of experience with the department, was fired for “multiple policy and procedure violations.”

Waukegan Mayor Sam Cunningham said that the officer was fired because his bodycam was not activated to properly archive the incident. Other videos leading up to the shooting were released by the City of Waukegan.

Williams, 20, of Waukegan, and Stinnette, also of Waukegan, were sitting in a car near Liberty Street and Oak Street in Waukegan in front of Williams’ home around 11:55 p.m. on October 20.

Bodycam footage shows officer James Keating pull up in his squad car next to their vehicle.

“Aren’t you the dude who got into an accident? You got into an accident right? What’s your name?” Keating asks.

Stinnette tells the officer his name is “King” and Keating replies, “I thought you were Stinnette?”

The officer walks around to the passenger seat of the car where Stinnette was seated and tells him he’s under arrest because he has a warrant.

A protest rally was held on October 22, 2020, in Waukegan following the fatal shooting of 19-year-old Marcellis Stinnette. | Photo: George Moore Jr.

Williams, who was seated in the driver’s seat, puts the car into gear and speeds off, nearly running Keating over, the video shows.

A short time later, a second Waukegan police officer, identified as Officer Salinas, spots the vehicle as it pulls out of a driveway and drives around the first officer’s car, which had its emergency lights activated.

A brief police pursuit ensues and Williams’ car slid off the road near Helmholz Avenue and Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue. Salinas jumps out of his car and yells “Get out of the fu—– car” as Williams’ car reverses in the direction of the officer, dashcam footage shows.

Salinas fires six shots into the vehicle, striking both Williams and Stinnette, as it reverses before coming to a stop after it crashed into a building, the video shows.

Stinnette was transported by ambulance to Vista Medical Center East in Waukegan where he was pronounced dead. Williams was transported by ambulance to Advocate Condell Medical Center in Libertyville in serious condition.

Williams spoke from her hospital bed after the incident in October and shared her view of the incident.

Tafara Williams, 20, of Waukegan, speaks from her hospital bed in October following a police-involved shooting in Waukegan which left her boyfriend dead.

“I rolled down the window and turned on all the lights in the car so the officer could see. I had no weapons and I wasn’t doing anything illegal.” Williams said.

“I asked the officer if we were free to leave. The officer took a few steps away from the car and got on his cellphone. I drove away very slowly because I was scared to get out of the car,” Williams said.

“That day, I lost the love of my life and the father of my 7-month-old son. [The baby] is the only thing I have left of Marcellis,” Williams said tearfully.

Williams also claimed that she and Stinnette both had their hands up and that the first officer who approached their car harassed them and knew Stinnette by name.

Williams also claimed that the first officer never turned on his lights or sirens.

No guns were found in Williams’ vehicle. The U.S. Department of Justice and Illinois State Police continue to investigate the shooting.

A lawsuit was filed on October 29 by Chicago-based O’Connor Law Firm on behalf of Zharvellis Holmes, who is Stinnette’s mother.