By Patrick Donachie
Police Commissioner Bill Bratton gave a robust defense of the police officers who shot and killed a man in South Ozone Park April 17, as others continued to call for a special prosecutor to investigate the incident.
“I’m very confident, very confident that our version of that story will stand up. That suspect was armed,” Bratton said in a news conference Monday. “The best way to not get shot by a New York City police officer is not carry a gun and not raise that gun toward them.”
According to police, at about 1:30 a.m. April 17, two officers from 106th Precinct approached George Tillman, 32, a licensed electrician and father of five from Maryland, after they allegedly saw him with an open container of alcohol while leaning against the outside of an SUV. Police claimed that the officers also saw the butt of a firearm sticking out of his waistband.. The two officers approached Tillman, who then fled the scene, according to the NYPD. The two officers chased him and were joined by three others. They reached the corner of 116th Avenue and 135th Street, at which point police said that Tillman tried to pull his weapon. Four officers fired on him. According to the medical examiner’s office, Tillman was shot 11 times and died from a fatal gunshot wound to the head.
The NYPD subsequently tweeted out a picture of a weapon they said was recovered at the scene. However, state Sen. James Sanders Jr. (D-South Ozone Park) said there were eyewitness reports that Tillman was not armed and noted that he had seen several videos of the moments leading up to the shooting that prompted him to ask state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman to appoint a special prosecutor.
Calls to the attorney general’s office were not returned by press time .
Queens District Attorney Robert Brown opposed appointing a special prosecutor and called on Sanders to make any information he had about the shooting available to his office.
“Under the law, responsibility for the investigation into the facts and circumstances surrounding the death of George Tillman last weekend rests with my office,” Brown said in a statement. “Let me assure everyone that our investigation will be thorough, fair and impartial. In the meanwhile, demands for the appointment of a special prosecutor are neither helpful nor productive — nor does there exist any basis in law or in fact therefor.”
On April 21, Sanders, members of the Tillman family and the community held a gathering at St. Clement Pope Church in South Ozone Park to inform attendees about updates in the investigation. Rev. Al Sharpton also recently supported the appointment of a special prosecutor.
Reach reporter Patrick Donachie by e-mail at pdona