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Photo courtesy of state Senator James Sanders
Photo courtesy of state Senator James Sanders
State Senator James Sanders addressed residents at a special meeting in Jamaica on Thursday night on a police-involved shooting in South Ozone Park.

Less than a week after a man was fatally shot by police following a pursuit in South Ozone Park, the man’s family and a local lawmaker called for a special prosecutor to investigate the incident.

State Senator James Sanders joined with family and friends of George Tillman, who was gunned down by NYPD officers in South Ozone Park on April 17, at St. Clement Pope Church on Thursday night for a meeting focused on the deadly incident.

Attendees sought to determine what would be the best course of action in pursuing a special prosecutor to investigate the case and expressed demands for increased transparency and accountability within the NYPD. Civic leaders and Sanders called for an external oversight board to replace the NYPD’s Internal Affairs Bureau, which currently investigates matters of police misconduct.

Also in attendance as a show of solidarity and support for the Tillman family was Nicole Paultre Bell, whose fiance Sean Bell was also killed by NYPD as he sat in his car in 2006.

A.U. Hogan, associate director of StudentsFirstNY and president of Baisley Houses, asked the audience to consider “how is it that one of the neighborhoods with the least crime has the most police contact,” in reference to the high occurrence of negative police encounters in the South Ozone Park neighborhood where Tillman died.

Hogan went on to say that in neighboring Jamaica, where more police officers are needed, they are nowhere to be found.

The subject of when to release footage of the shooting was also heavily discussed during the meeting. Tillman’s cousin Helen Leek expressed that too often cases of police brutality lose momentum after footage of an incident is released prematurely.

“We’re waiting for the right people to release the footage to,” Sanders said. “I’m asking that people hold their footage until we figure out whether the case will go to the attorney general or the Queens district attorney.”

Along with discussing a plan for securing a special prosecutor, the Tillman family also shared with each other fond memories of Tillman. Anthony Tillman Sr., his uncle, said that “George was born in Jamaica and was raised to be a fine young man and a Christian.

“He would come from Maryland to my home here to talk about God with me,” Anthony Tillman Sr. continued. “The people have lost a valued member of the community.”

The family also collectively disputed the NYPD’s narrative, citing that Tillman had no motivation to engage the pursuing officers in a shootout as he was a licensed electrician with no prior record who was active in the life of his five children and was only being accosted by the officers for an open container in the first place.

Sanders publicly thanked Governor Andrew Cuomo for his quick action in submitting the case to the Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. Bell further urged the audience to stay united in seeking reform.

“We need real change, and that means getting an indictment,” she said.

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