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Video brings more questions about police shooting

By J.A. Salaam -Contributing Writer- | Last updated: Dec 4, 2019 - 11:09:31 AM

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ST. LOUIS, Mo.—The family of Terry Tillman, protestors, community organizers and supporters had  waited three months for information surrounding the death of the 23-year-old Black male shot to death by a suburban police officer.

They protested on Black Friday at the mall where the young man was killed. The demonstrations followed release of a video of a police officer carrying a firearm that had allegedly been in the possession of Mr. Tillman. 

Richmond Heights, Mo., police, who were involved in the shooting, said they approached Mr. Tillman at the St. Louis Galleria Mall, in St. Louis County, after noticing he had a weapon. Missouri is an open carry state, but firearms are not allowed in the mall. Police say Mr. Terry fled when they approached him in the mall but drew the weapon and pointed it at an officer after they chased him outside and across the street.


Family members rejected the initial police account and the video raised more questions. They want an investigation into the events captured on video taken from inside a beauty salon the day of the fatal police shooting.

Amir Brandy, of the Peacekeepers and a frontline protestor during the 2014 Ferguson uprising, decided Nov. 25 to release the three-month-old cell phone video. Mr. Brandy said he did not show the video earlier out of concern for the safety of the woman who gave it to him. 

“I went to the county council meeting three straight times within the past two months, and told them that I had a videotape showing the officer removing the alleged gun of Mr. Tillman from a police SUV and that I was waiting for the investigation about the shooting to be completed. But, not one person expressed interest in it until now,” said Mr. Brandy. “I consulted with a few of my colleagues and we decided it was time to release it.” 


Protestors went back to the Galleria on Black Friday to disrupt one of the busiest shopping days of the year. About 50 people marched and chanted throughout the mall. Their plan was to repeat protests and hurt holiday spending. Protestors came back Friday evening to shut down the mall. 

“You kill our people, we kill your profits,” vowed activist Anthony Shahid, who is based in St. Louis.

On the eve of Thanksgiving, members from different community and religious groups met with Richmond Height’s Mayor Tim Thomson and City Manager Amy Hamilton. The meeting was requested in response to a press statement issued by the city manager. 

After the video was shown at a community rally and press conference, the statement from the Richmond Heights official was released. “The footage is being used purely for conspiracy claims to confuse and to fuel distrust and anger in the St. Louis community. The integrity of the crime scene is not in question. Mr. Tillman was alive after the shooting and the officers quickly performed CPR trying to save him. It is well documented that his gun was secured during this time,” said the statement.

Rev. Darryl Gray, social justice commissioner for the Progressive National Baptist Convention, said, “The comments that were attributed to Richmond Heights concern me so we must deal with the elephant in the room. We cannot move forward or have a decent dialogue if these comments are how you feel.” 

“Even for you to state what you felt our motivation was, I thought that was misplaced because that’s not the case for us. When the video came to us, as a community representing various groups, we felt the video was worth airing because (of) questions. We needed questions answered as related to the video … that was our reason,” he said. 

In their original report, Richmond Heights police said on Aug. 31 Mr. Tillman was being pursued, fell, dropped his gun, picked it up and kept running. When officers caught him on the top level of the Simmons Bank parking lot, approximately 200 yards away from the mall, police said he turned around and raised his gun at one officer and another officer shot him. 

His body stayed on the concrete parking lot for almost six hours before it was removed.

After the video of an officer removing the alleged weapon from a police SUV, questions arose. 

Activists and family members wanted to know how the weapon got into the SUV when the crime scene was on the top level of the bank parking lot and blocked off? The SUV was on a level below where police said Mr. Tillman was shot.

The family and activists also asked why it took so long for his body to be removed. 

The Final Call asked the Richmond Heights city manager the question, she responded, “I called to see why it was taking so long for the medical examiner to get there and I was told we will just have to wait because they were on other calls at the time.”

There’s only one medical examiner that covers the entire St. Louis County, she added.

Rev. Phillip Duvall, in the meeting with the Richmond Heights mayor and city manager, asked about department policy and procedures related to police-involved shootings and their chase policy at the mall. Neither city official answered his questions. 

“Does the (police) department of Richmond Heights have internal protocol for police actions in regard to incidents like this? Also, was there an internal investigation relative to the policy and procedures for the department of Richmond Heights?” he asked. 

Ms. Hamilton said there were none. 

Rev. Duvall continued: “Let me be clear what I’m asking you, not a criminal investigation, that’s the county I get that. But a review of the shooting.” 

The city manager replied no.

In the meeting more information came out than what was cited in the initial police report. The mayor said there were three not two officers involved in the shooting scene with Mr. Tillman. They were given a leave of absence for a short period of time, said the mayor. Each officer was given a mental analysis and evaluation to determine if they were fit to return to active duty, and one by one they have returned to work, he said.

At the end of the meeting Rev. Gray asked if the two officials stood by the press statement given the opportunity to meet with the group? “I don’t know,” said the city manager. The mayor, “I agree that you feel offended by that and it becomes a learning process for us also. Hopefully, we will never have to put out something like that again. After listening to this conversation, I feel we can rephrase things.” 

“All they had to do was tell him to leave the mall, no matter if he walked, ran, jog, why chase him?” asked Mrs. Rachel Jones, the shooting victim’s sister. “He was away from the mall, leave him alone. They said he was not threatening no one, he was just trying to get away from them. Why were they chasing him, if he’s not under arrest?” 

Missouri is an open carry state and firearms are allowed anywhere they are not prohibited. Local jurisdictions, however, can limit places where firearms are allowed. As of Jan. 1, 2017, anyone 19 or older can carry a concealed weapon without a permit and with no special firearms training. Conceal carry permits are available from local sheriffs but require passing a firearms training course and background check. Police said Mr. Tillman was a convicted felon and not allowed to carry a gun.

Wesley Bell, prosecuting attorney for St. Louis County, has been asked to look into the shooting. 

St. Louis County police Sgt. Ben Granda told The Final Call, “We’ve been investigating this for three months and there’s nothing on their video that will be inconsistent with our facts.”

The morning after the video release, the St. Louis County police department turned the files of the investigation over to county prosecutor Bell. County police were responsible for investigating the officer-involved shooting by the Richmond Heights police department.

Mr. Bell nor any other official made any contact with the Tillman family nor offered any community updates, said activists. Tory Russell, an activist and Ferguson protestor, expressed concern about the lack of communication from Mr. Bell and St. Louis County officials.

“Did we get rid of a White Bob McCulloch, for a Black one?” he asked. Mr. McCulloch, the prosecutor Mr. Bell defeated, was opposed by activists who said he was too cozy with police and failed to give Blacks justice.

Mr. Brandy uploaded the video to and had received over 45,000 views at Final Call presstime.

“The relationship between law enforcement and the Black community is fragile, and transparency is of paramount importance,” he observed.