Family members of a Black man shot and killed by a Missouri police officer aren’t buying authorities’ version of what led to the man’s death Saturday near the St. Louis Galleria mall.
“The media isn’t going to tell the truth about my nephew SO I WIll,” a Twitter user commented about Terry Tillman on the social media site Sunday. “My nephew was an intelligent, artistic, loving, and energetic guy. He was a father-to-be w/ his girlfriend and was so happy about it!”
He said in another tweet:
“THE POLICE CHASED MY NEPHEW DOWN AND KILLED HIM!!!!!”
Tillman, 23, was killed by three to five gunshots to his front torso when he was spotted with what appeared to be a gun in a mall that prohibits weapons, St. Louis County Police Sgt. Benjamin Granda said Tuesday at a news conference.
Two police officers — one, a Richmond Heights cop on duty and another from Overland who was working a security job at the mall — were standing together when they saw Tillman walking with what looked like an extended magazine protruding from his waistband, Granda said.
Another person in the mall noticed the weapon too and approached the officers, Granda said.
“Those officers contacted (Tillman) as I understand it just to provide him context that that property does not allow weapons on it,” Granda said.
Tillman apparently was confronted by officers inside a store, and he responded by bolting from the officers, which sparked a pursuit. At one point during the chase, Tillman’s gun fell from his waistband and he picked it up and kept running, Granda said.
Tillman “fled on foot from the galleria” and the officers chased him inside a parking structure at Simmons Bank in the 8100 block of Clayton Road, Granda said.
Police later determined there were at least 25 rounds in Tillman’s gun, Granda said.
It’s unclear why Tillman would have run from police, but court records showed he served five years of a 10-year prison sentence for robbing two people in Carondelet Park on Feb. 19, 2013.
Although Missouri allows the open carrying of firearms where they aren’t prohibited, Granda said Tillman’s record would have prohibited him from possessing a firearm.
Still, Missouri residents — with memories of the shooting death of unarmed Black teen Michael Brown at the hands of police in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson — questioned why police needed to chase Tillman at all.
“What I don’t understand is how it escalated from a request to leave the mall to a foot chase after a potential mass murderer,” Twitter user Johnny Mack said. “If cops on mall duty had been concerned about the gun magazine or a mass shooting, why didn’t they detain him inside the mall?”
When asked why officers chased Tillman, Granda said:
“It’s 2019. Any reasonable person that sees an extended magazine protruding from someone, especially in a law enforcement capacity, has an obligation to contact that individual and investigate.”
“I will give you a couple days to turn on your evening news look nationally and see if we have any mass shootings,” he said. “There is no way that we cannot not address that person.”
Signs prohibiting weapons at the mall are posted at every entrance, Granda said.
“I wish that they would have explained the policy again to him and than he would have parted ways and then come back to have completed his shopping on a different date or time when he was not armed,” Granda said. “But unfortunately that is not what happened.”
A 50-year-old officer with 23 years of experience “discharged his weapon” seven times, Granda said.
Tillman died on the scene.
Authorities have not yet released video of the shooting due to the continuing investigation, but there are 158 security cameras in the galleria and “presumably” others in the bank’s parking lot that need to be explored, Granda said.
The officer who shot Tillman told investigators Tillman was pointing the gun at another officer on the scene, Granda said.
“We are going to continue our investigative efforts to ensure that that is factual,” Granda said.