The investigation into the fatal Waukegan police shooting of Marcellis Stinnette is still being investigated by the state’s attorney a year after it happened. The victim’s mother says the state’s attorney is covering up her son’s death.
Stinnette, 19, of Waukegan, was shot and killed on October 20, 2020, by Waukegan police officer Dante Salinas after Stinnette’s girlfriend, Tafara Williams, nearly hit Salinas with her vehicle while fleeing from officers.
It has been 12 months since Stinnette was killed. Lake County State’s Attorney Eric Rinehart said the investigation into the case by his office is still ongoing.
A review of the eight most recent police-involved shooting cases investigated under former Lake County State’s Attorney Michael Nerheim — Rinehart’s predecessor — showed that it took an average of 4.9 months for Nerheim’s office to complete their investigations.
“Because Illinois law firmly holds that cases cannot be brought in a piecemeal fashion, we cannot move forward until all potential charging decisions have been thoroughly explored,” Rinehart said.
The attorneys and investigators at the state’s attorney’s office are “particularly focused on ballistic evidence, trajectory analysis, and scene reconstruction,” the statement said.
The state’s attorney’s office said they are committing significant time and resources into the case, which they said does not include “clear, unobstructed body-worn camera evidence.”
“We hear, appreciate, and respect the urgency of Mr. Stinette’s family and supporters. We understand and share their desire for justice, closure, and reform. The Lake County State’s Attorney’s Office is charged with the solemn responsibility of getting to the truth in this matter. Our decision will have ramifications throughout Lake County,” Rinehart said.
“We will get this right. Mr. Stinette, his family, his supporters, and the entire county deserve nothing less,” he added.
Stinnette’s mother, Zharvellis Holmes, said this week that she is not happy with the state’s attorney or the investigation, and she called it a cover-up, the Chicago Tribune reported.
“Rinehart is full of B.S.” she told the Tribune. “I don’t want to see him in office next time.”
Holmes said she believes that Williams and the officers involved in Stinnette’s shooting both bear some responsibility for her son’s death. She believes the officers should be charged, the Tribune reported.
Salinas, who is Hispanic and had five years of experience with the Waukegan Police Department, was fired for “multiple policy and procedure violations” following the shooting.
Waukegan officials said that Salinas was fired because his bodycam was not activated to properly archive the incident.
Editor’s Note: The below video could be considered shocking or disturbing to the viewer. Viewer discretion is advised.
Other videos leading up to the shooting were released by the City of Waukegan one week after the incident.
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, 2020.
Bodycam footage showed Waukegan Police Officer James Keating pulling 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 asked.
Stinnette told the officer his name was “King” and Keating replied, “I thought you were Stinnette?”
The officer walked around to the passenger seat of the car where Stinnette was seated and told him he was under arrest because of a warrant.
Williams, who was seated in the driver’s seat, put the car into gear and sped off, nearly running Keating over, the video showed.
A short time later, a second Waukegan police officer, identified as Salinas, spotted the vehicle as it pulled out of a driveway and drove around the first officer’s car, which had its emergency lights activated.
A brief police pursuit ensued and Williams’ car slid off the road near Helmholz Avenue and Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue.
Salinas jumped out of his car and yelled, “Get out of the fu—– car” as Williams reversed her car in the direction of the officer, dashcam footage showed.
Salinas fired approximately six shots into the vehicle, striking both Williams and Stinnette, as it reversed before coming to a stop after it crashed into a building.
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 with serious injuries.
A federal lawsuit was filed by Stinnette’s mother against the City of Waukegan and the officers involved. That case is ongoing.