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Queens Chronicle

DA: no need for special prosecutor

Exclusive: Brown says investigation of police shooting will be ‘impartial’

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Posted: Thursday, April 21, 2016 10:30 am

Queens District Attorney Richard Brown Tuesday said the calls for a special prosecutor to oversee the investigation of the death of a Maryland man who was fatally shot by cops early Sunday morning are “neither helpful nor productive — nor does there exist any basis in law or in fact therefor.”

“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 provided to the Queens Chronicle. “Let me assure everyone that our investigation will be thorough, fair and impartial.”

Brown’s statement came hours after state Sen. James Sanders Jr. (D-South Ozone Park) told the Chronicle that there are conflicting accounts of Tillman’s death.

According to police, the Maryland man, who was visiting his family in South Ozone Park, was spotted by 106th Precinct officers on 135th Street standing next to a double-parked car with an open bottle of rum.

The officers allegedly spotted a firearm in his waistband and attempted to approach him when he fled.

After being stopped by backup officers, Tillman allegedly reached for the .40-caliber Hi-Point gun and was shot by four officers. He was hit in the torso several times.

Tillman was transferred to Jamaica Hospital Medical Center, where he was declared dead.

Sanders said he’s heard, and seen, a much different story.

The senator said he’s seen a video of the incident that shows Tillman with no gun in his possession when he was shot by police.

“This video needs to be looked at by the proper authorities,” he said. “We need some objective people looking at this who can make a determination.”

Brown, in his statement, said senior members of his staff were at the scene early Sunday morning and the investigation is ongoing.

But for the senator, the different stories being told are reason enough to appoint a special prosecutor, as is allowed by state law.

“We understood there would be times when the police account and the community account would be so vastly different that it may put the local district attorney in a compromised position,” Sanders said.

The governor’s office determines if a special prosecutor is needed in police-involved shooting cases, a Queens district attorney spokesman said.

Sanders also said he’s heard reports of police officers “intimidating” witnesses.

Brown said he is aware of Sanders’ concerns.

“Based on comments appearing in the media this morning, my office has reached out to Senator Sanders and requested that he make available whatever information he possesses in regard to the incident,” the district attorney said.

Sanders said there are many in the South Ozone Park community who are calling for a special prosecutor to be assigned to the case, and that the list is continuing to grow.

Capt. James Fey, commanding officer of the 106th Precinct, called the incident “tragic” during his report at the Ozone Park Civic Association meeting Tuesday.

“A tragedy happened,” Fey said.

The four officers who shot Tillman were not injured but were transferred to Northwell LIJ-Medical Center for evaluation.

Fey said they were “very upset” by what happened that night.

“They took someone’s life,” the commanding officer said. “They didn’t want to do that.”

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