CHICAGO – A Black woman who was seriously injured when a suburban Chicago police officer shot her and killed her boyfriend is suing the officer who opened fire and the officer who initially questioned them minutes earlier.
Tafara Williams’ lawsuit was filed late Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Chicago against the officer who fired the shots the night of Oct. 20, Dante Salinas; the officer who stopped the couple earlier that evening, James Keating; and the city of Waukegan. Salinas is Hispanic, and Keating is white.
Waukegan police have said that Williams and her boyfriend, Marcellis Stinnette, fled after an officer — identified in the lawsuit as Keating — approached the car they were sitting in. Police have said a second officer — identified in the lawsuit as Salinas —- later stopped the couple's car. They have said that as Salinas approached, the vehicle started moving in reverse and the officer opened fire.
The lawsuit disputes the contention that Salinas feared for his life because the car was coming toward him and says a witness also disputes that version of events. It accuses Salinas of using excessive force when he fired at Williams, 20, and Stinnette, a 19-year-old Black man, as they sat in Williams' car, unarmed.
The lawsuit also contends that Keating had no reason to confront the couple in the first place, as they sat in Williams' vehicle smoking and talking.
The lawsuit also contends that the city of Waukegan knew or should have known that the two officers had “dangerous propensities for abusing authority, making false arrests.”
A call for comment made to Waukegan Mayor Sam Cunningham's office was not immediately returned Thursday. A man who answered Salinas' cellphone declined to comment. A number for Keating could not be located.
The lawsuit includes many allegations that Williams and her attorneys have made during press briefings this week. For example, before the attorneys in the lawsuit argued that Williams did not drive in the direction of Salinas, they said on Wednesday that Salinas was lying when he said in a recording from his body camera that Williams had tried to run him over.
Salinas was fired, in large part, because he did not activate his body camera until after the shooting, meaning that while the video includes the officer's comments after the shooting, it does not include the shooting itself.
The lawsuit marks the first time the names of the officers were made public. A check of filings in the same federal court reveals that in August, a man sued Salinas alleging that the officer in 2019 struck him in the face with his gun, causing several bone fractures and lacerations.
In that lawsuit, Angel Salgado contends he was outside the house of his nephew for a baptism party when Salinas while on patrol threatened him and pointed his weapon and “deployed his taser” at Salgado. Salgado acknowledged that he resisted arrest and said in the suit that he has since pleaded guilty to that charge.
News researcher Jennifer Farrar in New York contributed.