Four officers were acting in self-defense when they shot and killed a man who pointed a gun at them during a pursuit in South Ozone Park back in April, according to Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown.
The borough’s chief prosecutor released on Friday morning a 71-page report summarizing the six-month investigation into the April 17 police-involved shooting that took the life of George Tillman, a 32-year-old Maryland native, in the area of 135th Street and 116th Avenue. The shooting sparked calls for an investigation and charges against the officers involved.
“The investigation established that Mr. Tillman was armed with a loaded and operable firearm, that he ignored police commands to drop it and that he pointed it at the police,” Brown said in a statement. “The involved officers gave consistent accounts that were corroborated in their essential aspects, and in no way contradicted, by video surveillance and civilian witness accounts.”
One lawmaker who had been seeking a formal investigation — state Senator James Sanders — expressed skepticism about Brown’s decision.
“It’s sad that it didn’t happen,” Sanders said in a statement Friday. “While it is true that we do not have all of the information that the DA has, it is also true that it is a rare occurrence if a police officer is ever charged, and rarer still that they are ever convicted in these types of cases, and that seems to fit a national pattern.”
According to the report, Tillman — a father of five who had family in Queens — was approached by plainclothes officers assigned to the 106th Precinct as he stood outside his SUV with a bottle of vodka in his hand at about 1:30 a.m. on April 17. Surveillance camera footage captured from the location showed Tillman reaching into the rear of the SUV and making a motion to his waist seconds before the officers approached him.
The officers instructed Tillman that he couldn’t open the vodka in public, and Tillman handed it off to a friend with him at the time. Brown said the officers were about to leave when one of them spotted a handgun in Tillman’s waistband.
When that officer went to talk to him, Brown said, Tillman took off on foot. The officers pursued him on foot and ordered Tillman to stop, but he refused to do so. Seconds later, an unmarked police car with three officers arrived at the scene, and those officers alerted others that Tillman had a gun. The officers ordered Tillman to stop and drop the gun.
Seconds later, according to the report, Tillman stopped, turned to his left and held in his right hand a gun later determined to be a loaded .40-caliber semi-automatic pistol. He pointed the pistol at one of the officers. Four of the five officers pursuing Tillman then opened fire.
Tillman was hit with several shots, including a fatal bullet to his left temple. Police recovered the .40-caliber pistol, which Brown said was found in his right hand and contained his DNA. There was no evidence that any other officer had touched the weapon with bare hands.
“Under the circumstances, the police officers were legally entitled to use deadly force to stop Mr. Tillman from firing his weapon at them,” Brown concluded. “I have an ethical duty to institute criminal charges only where there is probable cause to support them. This is not such a case.”
The investigation, which involved interviews with more than 24 witnesses and a review of video surveillance cameras, police radio, 911 calls, ballistic reports and other information, found that Tillman — despite claims that he had a permit to own a firearm — was not licensed to have a weapon in any state. The gun was determined to have been reported stolen during a burglary in another state three years earlier, though the identity of the person who stole it is unknown.
Read the full report below. Additional security camera footage obtained from the scene can be viewed here.
Tillman – Final Redacted Report on Scribd