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Former Waukegan police officer Dante Salinas charged with second-degree murder in 2020 shooting of Marcellis Stinnette

Fired Waukegan officer facing murder charges for 2020 shooting
Fired Waukegan officer facing murder charges for 2020 shooting 02:06

CHICAGO (CBS) -- A former Waukegan police officer has been charged with murder in the shooting death of a man during a 2020 police chase, and is also facing charges for using excessive force while arresting a man at a family baptism in 2019.

Dante Salinas has been charged with three counts of second-degree murder and one count of involuntary manslaughter in the Oct. 20, 2020, shooting death of Marcellis Stinnette death, according to Lake County State's Attorney Eric Rinehart.

Salinas shot and killed Stinnette and wounded his girlfriend, Tafara Williams, on Oct. 20, 2020, during a chase after they'd fled an earlier stop in Waukegan. 

"My grandson's blood is crying out from the grave, 'Grandma, we need justice!', and we're finally getting justice," said Stinette's grandmother, Sherrellis Stinnette.

Williams was seriously injured in the same shooting, but survived. She is now charged with aggravated fleeing in connection with the incident.  

Salinas also is charged with one count of aggravated battery and two counts of official misconduct in connection with his August 2019 arrest of Angel Salgado.

"These two separate incidents demonstrate that Mr. Salinas has not lived up to the standards of his brother and sister officers," Rinehart said. "Angel, Marcellis, and every resident of Lake County have the moral and legal right to be safe."

Former Waukegan police officer Dante Salinas Lake County Sheriff

Salinas turned himself in Wednesday after a grand jury returned indictments in both cases. His bond was set at $350,000 on Thursday, and he is due back in court on Nov. 15. Williams also turned herself in, and was released on bond.

Salinas was fired from the Waukegan Police Department three days after shooting Stinnette, for multiple policy violations during the incident, including failing to activate his body worn camera until after the shooting.

Before the shooting, Williams and Stinnette had fled a suspicious vehicle stop. Officer James Keating had pulled them over, telling them he was arresting Stinnette on an outstanding warrant, but they took off.

Salinas later located them and pulled them over. Salinas fired the shots just 12 seconds after walking up to the vehicle in which Stinnette was a passenger and Williams was behind the wheel.

Marcellis Stinnette (Credit: Legal Help Firm)

Video released by the city of Waukegan within days of the shooting did not show the actual shooting, because Salinas did not activate his body camera until after shooting Stinnette and Williams – a decision that got him fired from the department. The footage did document Salinas explaining why he fired into the car, as he is interviewed by another officer.

"It backed up right at me; it was in between my squad car…. I fired my weapon because I thought I was the next one run over," Salinas says.

Dashboard camera from Salinas' vehicle does show him following the couple's car before the shooting, as Williams' car slides off the road at Martin Luther King Jr. and South avenues. As Salinas gets out of his squad car, the couples' car begins backing up, but Salinas isn't visible in that footage, so it's unclear from the video if he was in the car's path before firing.

"I was right behind you and you almost tried to run me over!" the officer is heard yelling.

However, Rinehart said an investigation by Illinois State Police and an independent crime scene analyst determined Salinas was well clear of the car's path when he shot Stinnette and Williams. Rinehart also noted Stinnette had committed no crime that night, and neither he nor Williams were armed.

"These shots were illegal, unnecessary, and constitute second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter," Rinehart said.

Lake County State's Attorney announces charges against former Waukegan police officer 20:39

In a statement, Stinnette's mother, Zharvellis Holmes, said the charges against Salinas "have been a long time coming."

"My son, Marcellis Stinnette, was innocent, unarmed, and did nothing wrong. He did not deserve to be shot and killed by former Waukegan Police Officer Dante Salinas," she said.

Salinas also is accused of using excessive force during an August 2019 incident involving Angel Salgado, who already has sued Salinas, claiming Salgado beat him during an arrest while Salgado was attending a family baptism.

Rinehart said Salinas was on patrol that day when he heard Salgado shout, and got out of his patrol car, leading to an argument. 

Police reports state Salgado had flagged Salinas down – and then Salgado "kept yelling and advancing in a menacing manner."

During the argument, Salinas pulled out his service weapon and then his Taser, and then Salgado turned away from him to go into the fenced-in yard of his family's home, according to Rinehart. Salinas followed Salgado into the yard, deployed his Taser, tackled him, and punched him in the face, breaking his eye socket, Rinehart said.

While an internal police review of Salgado's case determined Salinas' use of force was "within department policy," and Salinas was never disciplined for his actions, Rinehart said Salinas' actions were not justified.

"Angel was not hurting anyone. He was not breaking the law, and Officer Salinas had not received a complaint," against Salgado, Rinehart said. 

Williams also has filed a lawsuit against Salinas, accusing him of using "an unreasonable amount of force in relationship to the threat or force posed by the Plaintiff, who was not resisting any lawful arrest or threatening the life or safety of any police officers" during the shooting that wounded her and killed Stinnette.

Williams' attorneys said Salinas and Keating had personal animosity toward Williams and Stinnette, and said the City of Waukegan was "encouraging, accommodating, or facilitating a 'blue code of silence'" in its police department.

Williams' lawsuit also blames the city of Waukegan for improper training, as did Salgado's lawsuit.

In video from the night of the shooting, it was clear Keating immediately recognized Stinnette in the passenger seat after first pulling over the couple's vehicle at Liberty and Oak streets.

"What's your first name? You're Marcellis, right?" Keating said.

He then said, "You're under arrest, man." When Williams asks why Stinnette is under arrest, the officer replies, "because I said."

"Hey, come on, show me the hands, pal. I ain't playing with you because I know you. Marcellis, you're under arrest," Keating said.

"He's under arrest for what though?" Williams said.

"Because he got a warrant," the officer said.

The officer and Williams continued talking back and forth until Williams drove off.

"They just ran me over," Keating said.

That's when Salinas picked up the chase that ended with him shooting Williams and Stinnette.

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