Waukegan Cop Who Killed Marcellis Stinnette Allegedly Pistol-Whipped Another Unarmed Man

Pilar Melendez, Raven Geary
·8 min read
Kamil Krzaczynski/Getty
Kamil Krzaczynski/Getty

The fired Waukegan, Illinois cop who fatally shot 19-year-old Marcellis Stinnette and injured 20-year-old Tafara Williams on Oct.20 has been identified as Dante Salinas, according to court documents.

The officer, who was identified in a lawsuit filed by Williams on Wednesday evening, was also involved in another violent incident more than a year before Stinnette’s death in which he allegedly pistol-whipped an unarmed man during an arrest outside his nephew’s baptism party, court documents show. The victim of that August 2019 incident, Angel Salgado, sued the city of Waukegan and Salinas two months ago, alleging he suffered “severe lacerations” and “several bone fractures” during the assault.

As a “direct result” of the city’s “failure to adequately train, prepare, and equip” Salinas, Salgado was “unlawfully assaulted and battered by Officer Salinas, resulting in injuries including numerous facial fractures,” the lawsuit states.

Waukegan Cop Fired for Fatally Shooting Black Teenager

The lawsuit filed by Tafara Williams in District Court for the Northern District of Illinois identifies James Keating as the second officer involved in the Oct. 20 incident. Authorities say the Stinnette shooting occurred after an officer tried to approach the couple’s car—but they drove off and were found later on another street. When another cop tried to approach the car again, the vehicle allegedly began to reverse, causing the officer to shoot “in self-defense,” police said.

No weapons were found in the car. Salinas has since been fired for “multiple policy and procedure violations,” the lawsuit states.

On Thursday afternoon, the estate of Stinnette also filed a lawsuit against the city of Waukegan, the city’s police chief, Salinas, and Keating. The suit says Stinnette didn’t get any medical aid for eight minutes after he was pulled from the car and “bled on the ground.”

The whole tragedy could have been avoided, the lawsuit says, if the city had just taken action against Salinas—an officer they claimed the city knew had a history of confrontations.

Since August, the city and its police chief “had knowledge that Officer Salinas had a propensity to escalate confrontations into hazardous situations,” it says. “Despite this knowledge, they took no action against Officer Salinas and allowed him to remain with the police department.”

Waukegan P.D. had previously confirmed that an unnamed officer who had been on the force for five years had been terminated over the Stinnette incident. They also confirmed the officer who investigated Williams’ car was white.

The Waukegan Police Department did not immediately respond to The Daily Beast’s request for comment.

In Williams’ lawsuit, which also names the city of Waukegan as a defendant, the 20-year-old alleges she had just put her child to bed when she went outside with Stinnette to smoke a cigarette in her grey sedan.

A police vehicle without its overhead lights made a U-turn, came down the one-way the wrong way, and pulled up next to the couple, despite not having any “reasonable suspicion or probable cause.” Despite never informing the 20-year-old she was under arrest, Keating put his hand on his gun while he was speaking to her, prompting her to slowly drive away from the officer out of fear for her's and Stinnette’s lives, the lawsuit claims.

Williams then turned the corner and made contact “with an electrical pole,” at which time Salinas, who was already on the scene, got out of his car with his weapon drawn.

According to one witness at the scene, the lawsuit states, Williams screamed, “Why you got a gun?” while Salinas began to “discharge his firearm.” The lawsuit states that the 20-year-old’s car moved backward, though the witness claimed she was not driving at the officer nor was he in the path of her car.

“I can hear Marcellis still breathing, I told them, ‘Please don’t shoot, I have a baby, we have a baby, we don’t wanna die,’” Williams said in a press conference Tuesday. “An officer dragged me away from Marcellis. I begged him to take him first because he had just got surgery not too long ago. They ignored me.”

Stinnette’s lawsuit notes that Salinas failed to turn on his body camera before drawing his weapon and that Williams “began to back up her vehicle to return to the roadway.” But at no time, the lawsuit stresses, did Williams drive toward Salinas.

Williams said on Tuesday that the officer who shot the 19-year-old covered him with a blanket while he was still breathing. The Waukegan Police Department confirmed that Stinnette was transported alive to the hospital, where he was later pronounced dead.

“[The officers] had no information that any violent crime had been committed and/or that any individuals were in danger of death or serious bodily harm,” the lawsuit states. “At said time, [the officers] had no knowledge of any criminal activity or possible criminal activity associated with Ms. Williams.”

As Williams exited the car, she allegedly stated, “I don’t want to die,” reportedly with her hands up, despite sustaining injuries to her hand, abdomen, and organs.

“Ms. Williams waited on scene for an ambulance, and did not receive medical assistance for some time as she bled out from her stomach,” the lawsuit states.

On Wednesday, Waukegan police released bodycam footage of the incident that appeared to confirm the car was not reversing towards Salinas. When the first officer approaches the couple, he asks for their names and asks if Stinnette is “that dude that got in an accident.” When Stinnette seemingly gives another name, the officer tells him he’s under arrest.

The teen had been in an accident in August that meant he “was physically limited in his ability to move and/or walk,” the lawsuit from his estate says.

Williams is questioning the officer, presumed to be Keating, about why they’re under arrest, to which he says, “Because I said.” When he asks Stinnette to get out of the car, Williams speeds off and the cop yells, “Hey, they just ran me over.” (It’s not clear if he was actually hit.)

In dashcam footage presumably from Salinas’ car, Williams is seen speeding down a road before pulling over on the grass. Salinas pulls over near the car and is heard yelling, “Get out of the fucking car” before it goes into reverse. An engine can be heard in video, followed by six shots and the sound of a crash.

Bodycam footage from Salinas only starts after the shooting. In it, Williams is heard yelling that the couple “didn’t do anything wrong” before the officer says, “I was right behind you and you almost tried to run me over.”

The shooting has prompted protests in the area and a wave of public outrage.

“How many times must we see the use of excessive force by police when it comes to Black citizens. It’s as if every community says the problem doesn’t happen in their town. We have got to wake up, America, and finally make every police department accountable for the actions of their officers,” said Attorney Ben Crump of Ben Crump Law.

“The fact that the officer who fired those shots did not turn on his body camera until after these young people were wounded and bleeding tells us all we need to know. He began to create his false narrative as soon as his camera was recording, but I promise you this law suit will uncover the truth,” said Antonio M. Romanucci, Founding Partner of Romanucci & Blandin, LLC. “We will bring justice for Tafara Williams.”

The lawsuit against Salinas comes just a year after another Waukegan resident claimed the officer violently attacked him after a baptism party for his nephew. According to the lawsuit, obtained by The Daily Beast, Salinas was patrolling on Victory Street when he approached Angel Salgado on his father-in-law’s property.

Without warning, Salinas allegedly drew his weapon and threatened Salgado, “escalating the situation and causing the plaintiff to fear for his well-being.” The lawsuit claims Salinas used his taser on Salgado and, during an ensuing physical altercation, pistol-whipped him. The assault caused lacerations and bone fractures, according to the suit.

Salgado admits in the lawsuit that he resisted arrest because he believed the officer’s treatment of him was unlawful. During the scuffle, Salinas called for backup and was assisted by other Waukegan Police Department officers in successfully arresting Salgado.

The lawsuit also takes aim at the city of Waukegan and its top officials, alleging that the mayor and chief of police have accepted a pattern and practice of excessive force from its officers, including using “unconstitutional police tactics.”

“As final policymakers, Mayor Sam Cunningham and Chief of Police Wayne Walles, by creating this custom or usage of excessive force during the arrest and/or detention of accused individuals amounted to a policy decision,” the lawsuit adds.

The lawsuit claims that Salgado was charged with misdemeanor resisting arrest, a crime that he pleaded guilty to the next day.

Lawyers for Salgado, who told The Daily Beast they are also representing Stinnette’s family, did not immediately provide a comment on the lawsuits. Salinas also did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Read more at The Daily Beast.

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