A former Waukegan police officer was charged Thursday in the fatal shooting of an unarmed 19-year-old Black man during a traffic stop in October 2020.
Dante Salinas, who was fired after the shooting for not turning on his bodycam, was charged with second-degree murder, involuntary manslaughter and aggravated battery in the death of Marcellis Stinnette, Lake County's state's attorney announced.
Stinnette's grandmother Sherrellis Stinnette fought back tears when she heard the news that a former police officer might be held accountable for what happened on a dark Waukegan street two years ago.
"I am just glad the police [officer] has been charged with my grandson's death,” she said
"We have to keep each other safe and we have to follow the law, and the officer broke the law," State's Attorney Eric Rinehart said at a news conference attended by Stinnette's family and community activists.
Community members have been calling for charges ever since the shooting, which Rinehart said happened during a traffic stop after Stinnette’s girlfriend, Taffarra Williams, pulled away from the scene. Salinas opened fire, killing Stinnette who was unarmed, Rinehart said.
Williams was charged with fleeing and eluding law enforcement.
“We are just glad for accountability," Williams' aunt, Latoya Johnson, said. "We are glad for this to come to some to some kind of end."
In court Thursday, Salinas pleaded not guilty and was ordered held on a $350,000 bond. He was also charged in connection with a 2020 incident during which he allegedly beat a man and chased him into his own yard where he used a Tazer on him. That man survived.
"We knew it was going to happen, but it took too long," said Clyde McLemore, the executive director of Black Lives Matter Lake County. Rinehart said the Illinois State Police investigation and his office’s own investigation into the trajectory of the bullets fired that night took this long to complete.
The charges, among the first ever for an on-duty shooting by an officer in Lake County, bring some comfort to the families of Stinnette and Williams, who now say their healing process can begin.
Williams' mother, Clifftina Johnson, said she is thinking of her daughter and the officer charged today.
“It’s gonna take a long time, but I forgive him. I really do,” she said. “Forgiveness is key.”