A judge ordered a former Waukegan police officer held on a $350,000 bond for shooting and killing 19-year-old Marcellis Stinnette. He pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Dante Salinas, 39, of Gurnee, was charged by a grand jury with three counts of second-degree murder, involuntary manslaughter, aggravated battery causing great bodily harm and two counts of official misconduct.
The three counts of second-degree murder and one count of involuntary manslaughter stem from the Stinnette shooting.
The two counts of official misconduct and one count of aggravated battery causing bodily harm stem from a separate case where Salinas allegedly battered Angel Salgado on August 31, 2019.
Prosecutors said in court Thursday that Salinas was on-duty and on patrol when he came across Salgado, who called out to him.
Salinas got out of his squad car and a verbal argument ensued.
Prosecutors said Salinas pointed his firearm and taser at Salgado at separate moments.
Salgado began walking back to his fenced yard when Salinas tackled him and punched him four to five times, prosecutors said. Salgado suffered a broken eye socket.
Salinas was not fired from the Waukegan Police Department until after the Stinnette shooting, which occurred in October 2020. He had been an officer with the department for five years.
Then-Waukegan Police Chief Wayne Walles said Salinas had been fired for “multiple policy and procedure violations.”
Then-Waukegan Mayor Sam Cunningham said that Salinas did not activate his bodycam to properly archive the Stinnette shooting.
Prosecutors briefly detailed the Stinnette shooting during the Thursday court hearing but did not provide any details that had not already been known.
Waukegan resident Tafara Williams, who was 20 at the time, and Stinnette, who also lived in 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 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 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.
Editor’s Note: The below video could be considered shocking or disturbing to the viewer. Viewer discretion is advised.
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’ car reversed, dashcam video showed.
Salinas fired approximately six shots into the vehicle, striking both Williams and Stinnette, as it reversed before coming to a stop when it crashed into a building.
Prosecutors said Salinas was standing next to the vehicle before it reversed but was “clear of its path.”
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.
“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.
“These charges come after months of investigation by my team. The Illinois State Police completed the bulk of their work by February 2021. Our office retained a trajectory expert to analyze the Illinois State Police’s investigation and to fully explain the timeline of the incident, the location of Salinas, and the trajectory of his bullets,” Lake County State’s Attorney Eric Rinehart said.
Rinehart said a forensic expert traveled to the area after Illinois State Police completed their investigation.
The expert “painstakingly studied the car, the intersection, the video footage, and the bullets themselves,” Rinehart said.
“His work was even more important because Officer Salinas did not turn on his body camera. We received the final report from our expert in July 2022. We presented that matter to the Grand Jury yesterday,” Rinehart said.
Court records show warrants were recently issued for Salinas in Lake County Circuit Court. The warrants carried a bond of $500,000, records show.
Salinas surrendered himself to the Lake County Jail Thursday morning.
Salinas appeared in court Thursday afternoon before Lake County Judge George Strickland.
Strickland ordered Salinas held on a $350,000 bond, meaning he would need to post $35,000 cash in order to be released.
Salinas pleaded not guilty to all charges in both of his cases.
Williams was charged Wednesday with aggravated fleeing to elude in the October 20, 2020, incident. She appeared in court after Salinas and was given a $50,000 recognizance bond.
Waukegan Mayor Ann Taylor said in a statement that she is pleased the investigation has progressed so the “family can begin the healing process.”
“I want to thank the family and our concerned residents for their patience, cooperation, and understanding throughout this process. Although Mr. Stinnette was killed before I became Mayor, I consider it my responsibility to ensure that all citizens of Waukegan feel safe and protected in their homes, neighborhoods, and the City,” Taylor said.
“That requires creating and cultivating a sense of trust between the residents and the City’s police department. Police Chief Keith Zupec, whom I appointed this past summer to serve as Chief of Police, and I share this goal. Together we are working daily to ensure that incidents like the killing of Marcellis Stinnette are not repeated in the City of Waukegan. Our residents expect that much, and they deserve no less,” she said.
Salinas is scheduled to appear in court again on November 15 for a case management hearing.