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Families of victims killed in street-race crash speak out on reckless driving

Devante Gaines and Jerrold Wellinger
Posted at 12:06 PM, Aug 09, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-09 21:28:34-04

MILWAUKEE — Family members of the two men struck and killed over the weekend by a car in an illegal street race have spoken out in hopes of bringing more light to the city's reckless driving problem.

"He was just beginning his life. And, as I call them, I'm sorry these monsters, I'm sorry that's the only word I can find for them, took my son away from me forever. And we will never see Jerrold's dream come true," said Julie Wellinger, the mother of Jerrold Wellinger, who died in the crash.

Wellinger and Divante Gaines, both 22, died Saturday evening when the car they were riding in was hit by another car racing down West Hampton Avenue at 60th at a high speed, according to police.

Devante Gaines
Devante Gaines
Wellinger and his sisters.

Wellinger's dream, his mother said, was to flip houses because "he wanted to be his own boss." His big sister, Mariah Johnson, said her little brother loved to read and had a plan to fulfill his career goals.

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Julie Wellinger, the mother of Jerrold Wellinger, and his sister, Mariah

Wellinger and Gaines grew up as childhood friends. Their families said they had both recently done some time in prison, but they were on the right path -- Wellinger on his way to flipping houses and Gaines taking steps to a different life with his grandmother's help.

"I had just told him about a service that my church has, at Word of Hope, at Holy Cathedral," said Sandra Gaines, Gaine's grandmother. "I told him about how they help people who get out of prison, get back on your feet and everything."

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Sandra Gaines, Gaine's grandmother

On her porch in Northwest Milwaukee, Ms. Gaines told stories of a boy who visited to help out around the house and mowed the neighbors grass when they ask him to do it.

All of their plans, through her church, cut short, she says, because of reckless driving.

"They were friends from school. They were close [Wellinger and Gaines]. Only good thing to me to come out it, they went together. They went together," said Ms. Gaines.

According to the city's Traffic Safety Unit, police have issued more than 12,000 traffic citations this year, of which nearly 60 percent are for speeding. And most of the citations were for drivers traveling at 15 to 24 mph over the speed limit.

So far this year in Milwaukee, there have nearly 11,000 crashes, including 35 deaths.

In a statement, Milwaukee Common Council President Cavalier Johnson, of district two where the crash occurred, encouraged prosecutors to charge the two men arrested in the crash with homicide.

Anyone with information is asked to contact the Milwaukee Police at (414) 935-7360 or Crime Stoppers at (414) 224- TIPS. If you wish to remain anonymous you can use the P3 Tips App.

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