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No charges in deadly 2019 police shooting near St. Louis Galleria shopping center

No charges in deadly 2019 police shooting near St. Louis Galleria shopping center

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Updated at 6:15 p.m. Tuesday with more information.

CLAYTON — St. Louis County prosecutors said Tuesday they will not bring charges in last year’s fatal police shooting near the St. Louis Galleria shopping center in Richmond Heights.

St. Louis County Prosecutor Wesley Bell and his staff explained the decision Tuesday to relatives of Terry Tillman, 23, who was shot by a Richmond Heights police officer on Aug. 31, 2019, near the shopping center.

After meeting with Tillman’s relatives and their lawyer Tuesday morning to review surveillance and police videos, Bell’s office showed the sequence of videos to reporters.

In a news release, Bell said he concluded prosecutors would be unable to prove that the officer who killed Tillman acted unreasonably in using deadly force to defend himself.

“There is no way to heal the loss of a son, father, brother or friend, and we regret the loss of this young man’s life,” Bell said in a statement. “In a case where Mr. Tillman ran full-speed toward the officer holding a gun, after having refused police orders to stop and put down the gun, and where the officer had to make a split-second decision about whether and how to protect his life, the prosecutor was unable to meet that high burden of proof.”

The videos show Tillman enter the Galleria with a high-capacity magazine from a handgun sticking out of his waistband, walk through a department store and then chat briefly with an employee of another store before two officers approach him about his gun. The mall prohibits guns.

Tillman then sprinted from that store into a parking garage before running across the street to the top level of a bank’s outdoor parking lot, the videos show. The police videos included 911 audio of calls for backup and dashboard camera video of officers driving into the parking garage near Simmons Bank on Clayton Road, where the officer shot Tillman on an outer staircase.

The dashcam video shared with reporters Tuesday showed an armed Tillman emerge from around the corner of a wall atop the bank’s parking garage just as the officer runs up the stairs. The officer shot Tillman toward the top of the staircase, firing a total of seven shots. The Richmond Heights officer who killed Tillman initially said he could see Tillman pointing a gun at another responding officer, but that was not evident from the videos.

Tillman’s death sparked protests in front of Richmond Heights City Hall and at the shopping center. Protesters at other racial justice gatherings in the St. Louis region this year following George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis often invoked Tillman’s name. Tillman was Black, and the officer who shot him is white.

Dan Bruntrager, a lawyer for Tillman’s relatives, said he joined the family Tuesday at Bell’s office to review the video and hear Bell’s decision.

“It was all professional — extraordinarily so,” Bruntrager said of Bell’s explanation. “He did explain to them very clearly and sympathetically his point of view why he couldn’t proceed with a state prosecution.”

Tillman did not fire his weapon that day, and the gun did not have a bullet in the chamber. Police recovered a .40-caliber handgun with an extended magazine holding 28 rounds that resembled a handgun seen in a livestreamed video of Tillman earlier in the day. The videos shared Tuesday also showed police removing the gun from Tillman’s hand as he lay wounded on the staircase, and giving Tillman CPR for minutes after the shooting.

Bell and his staff did not identify the two officers who chased Tillman from the Galleria. Bell’s staff also released a redacted, 127-page police report detailing the incident and said they didn’t want to release the videos at the request of Tillman’s family.

After Tillman’s death, police say the mother of Tillman’s child posted a comment on a since-deleted social media post that read, “I stg (swear to God), he said so many times that he (would) rather die than go back to jail.”

Dana Mulhauser, who heads Bell’s Conviction Integrity Unit that investigates police shootings, told reporters the surveillance and police videos were “enormously helpful” to the investigation, noting Richmond Heights Police Department has adopted body cameras since the Tillman case.

“We recognize that it took too long to provide answers in this case,” Bell’s statement said. “The COVID-19 pandemic complicated the process of compiling the video evidence, but that is an explanation, not an excuse. All of us in law enforcement need to work toward providing closure more quickly, even in pandemic conditions and even in complicated cases.”

Bruntrager said Tuesday that Tillman’s stepfather, uncle and mother had been consulting with him about a wrongful death lawsuit but have not decided whether to move forward with it. He said Tuesday’s meeting allowed Tillman’s family to see a sequence of surveillance videos from the mall that showed what happened. Bruntrager was hesitant to share the family’s immediate reaction to Bell’s decision.

“They still have so much to digest from this,” Bruntrager said. “They do need to talk about it and think about it.”

Tillman’s criminal history included a robbery in Carondelet Park in February 2013.

Officer-involved shootings in the St. Louis area during 2019

These are the incidents of police officer shootings in the St. Louis area during 2019.

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