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‘Because I Said’: Newly Released Videos Show One Officer Telling Black Teen He’s Under Arrest — Reportedly with No Warrant — Minutes Later, Another Cop Fatally Shoots the Teenager

On Wednesday, the city of Waukegan released footage of the Oct. 20 officer-involved shooting that left 19-year-old Marcellis Stinnette dead and his girlfriend, 20-year-old Tafara Williams wounded. The shooting happened when an officer fired multiple rounds into the vehicle carrying Stinnette and Williams while attempting to complete an investigation during a traffic stop in a Chicago suburb.

The city released body camera, dash camera, and building surveillance video of the deadly shooting, which shows that the Hispanic officer who fired the shots, identified as Dante Salinas, did not turn on his body camera until after the shooting.

Salinas, who had served with the department for five years, was fired on Friday for “multiple policy and procedure violations,” Commander Edgar Navarro said last week.

“The body-worn camera of the officer involved was not activated to properly archive the time of the shooting. This was a breach of Waukegan Police Department policies, and one of the reasons for the officer’s termination,” Mayor Sam Cunningham said in a statement Wednesday.

In the newly-released footage of the shooting, an initial officer identified as James Keating, who is white, questioned Williams, the driver, and Stinnette, who was in the passenger seat of the car.

Marcellis Stinnette. (Family Photo)

The footage was captured on Keating’s body camera, and shows the officer suggest that Stinnette was in a car crash. “What’s your name?” Keating asked, standing beside the vehicle.

“King,” Stinnette and Williams responded.

“King? I thought you were one of the Stinnette kids, right?” Keating asked. The officer then asked for Stinnette to provide his first name several times. After confirming his first name was Marcellis, Keating told him he was under arrest.

“Why?” Williams asked.

“Because I said,” Keating said “Show me the hands, pal, I ain’t playing with you, ’cause I know you,” the officer told Marcellis. “You’re under arrest.”

Keating, shown by the video standing next to the passenger side of the car with his hand on the door, said there was a warrant for Stinnette’s arrest. ABC7 Chicago reported that they could not find any warrants for Stinnette’s arrest, nor could his family’s attorney. Seconds later, the car sped away. “Hey, they just ran me over!” Keating exclaimed.

The next portion of the footage was captured on a dash camera and shows Salinas pursuing Williams’ vehicle in his patrol car.

Williams drove over a curb and stopped on the grass of a lawn as Salinas’ patrol car stopped roughly parallel at a distance from the passenger side of the car he’d briefly been pursuing. “Get out of the f-ckin car!” Salinas shouted as Williams began to reverse.

Next, Salinas fired at least six shots, and a loud crash and the sound of someone screaming is audible. It is unclear whether Salinas had stepped outside of the vehicle when he fired the shots.

Footage from two building surveillance cameras shows that after the shots were fired the vehicle crashed into a building.

When Salinas turned his body camera on, he shouted “I was right behind you and you almost tried to run me over!” Williams can be heard screaming while Stinnette cried out.

“He got shot, he got shot,” Williams said. “Why did you shoot us? All I did was reverse.”

Another officer arrived on the scene. “Who shot?” he asked.

“I did,” said Salinas. “They almost ran me over.”

There were no weapons found in the car. Stinnette and Williams were transported to a hospital, where Stinnette later died. Williams was shot in the abdomen and is expected to survive.

Family members and attorneys Ben Crump and Antonio Romanucci viewed the videos early Wednesday before they were released.

“What’s disturbing is that once that body camera went on, that false narrative came out,” Romanucci said. “This officer had his ‘oh crap’ moment after the shooting and pushed the button. ‘You tried to run me over,’ those were his first words.'”

“It just is inexplicable why this officer shot and, why immediately after he shoots, turns on his body camera afterwards and says, ‘You tried to run me over,’ almost as if he knew he messed up,” Crump said.

On Wednesday morning, Williams filed a lawsuit against the city of Waukegan, Salinas, and Keating, alleging that Salinas used excessive force and challenging the narrative that he feared for his life because the vehicle was reversing towards him.

Stinnette’s mother filed a suit Thursday, claiming it is suspicious that Salinas did not turn his body camera on until after the shooting, and noting that it took eight minutes for medical teams to arrive at the scene. Crump and Romanucci are representing both Williams and Stinette’s mother.

Williams said the encounter began when she went to her car with Stinnette to smoke, and the officer approached them. She said she drove away from the officer, then encountered Salinas.

“There was a crash and I lost control. The officer was shooting at us. The car ended up slamming into a building. I kept screaming ‘I don’t have a gun,’ but he kept shooting,” Williams said. “He told me to get out of the car. I had my hands up and I couldn’t move because I had been shot. Marcellis had his hands up. I kept asking him why he was shooting.”

Williams said that after the shooting an ambulance wasn’t called until after they got out of the car. She said they covered Marcellis’ body with a blanket “while he was still breathing.” She said her “heart is completely broken,” because their 7-month-old son Marcellis Stinnette Jr. will never know his father.

Illinois State Police’s Public Integrity Task Force and the FBI are investigating the incident. Lake County State’s Attorney Michael Nerheim will review the investigation.

It would not be the first time Salinas has come under scrutiny for abuse of power. In August, Salinas was sued by a man he had pistol-whipped in 2019 during an arrest outside of his nephew’s baptism. The man, Angel Salgado, was as not armed and was left with lacerations and broken facial bones.

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