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Queens Chronicle

Looking for justice, but ready to ‘take it’

Community mourns George Tillman as they fight for special prosecutor

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Posted: Thursday, April 28, 2016 10:30 am

The people who gathered in the basement of St. Anthony Clement Pope Church in South Ozone Park last Thursday know what it’s like to hear that a black man has been fatally shot by cops — they’ve seen it happen many times before.

But this time would be different, they said. The standing-room-only crowd vowed to get justice for George Tillman, who they say was unjustly killed by police April 19.

“If we stick together, there will be justice,” the family’s attorney, Jeffrey Lichtman, told the crowd. “Either they’re going to give it to us, or we’ll take it.”

Tillman was stopped on 135th Street as he stood next to a double-parked car with an open container of alcohol, police and Lichtman said. The officers allegedly spotted a firearm in his waistband and attempted to approach him when he fled, cops said. Following a brief foot chase, Tillman allegedly reached for a gun and was shot by four officers “several” times in the torso, police originally said.

The Medical Examiner’s Office later said Tillman died of a gunshot to the head.

Lichtman, Tillman’s family, community leaders and civil rights activists deny parts of the cops’ tale of that night, saying he did not have a gun on him at the time and was shot in cold blood by cops.

“He was a young man who had an open container,” Lichtman said. “That was his crime. And for that, he got 13 bullets in the torso and one in the head.”

Some in the room charge the incident is another chapter in the black community’s sometimes strained relationship with law enforcement, alleging cops target the minority community.

“I see this a lot,” Au Hogan, associate director for Life Camp Inc. and president of the Baisley Park Houses, said. “I want our elected leaders to look at this in a way that it’s not a micro-problem, not a 135th Street problem, but that it’s a national problem.”

Led by state Sen. James Sanders Jr. (D-South Ozone Park), the people in the room are calling on Attorney General Eric Schneiderman to oversee the investigation of the case as a special prosecutor.

“Something is amiss in this particular case and we want to see some justice in our lifetime,” said Sanders, who added he is trying to meet with Schneiderman to discuss this particular case.

As first reported by the Queens Chronicle, Queens District Attorney Richard Brown last week issued a statement that he believes the calls for a special prosecutor are “neither helpful nor productive” and that his investigation will be “fair and impartial.”

Responding to that, Sanders said he has a “philosophical disagreement” with district attorneys looking into police-involved shootings.

“Nine times out of 10, the DA’s office works hand-in-hand with the Police Department as they go through their caseload,” the senator said. “They develop friendships, they develop relationships. In that less than one in 10 instance, they may find themselves investigating the very people they’ve developed friendships with.”

Last Saturday, the Rev. Al Sharpton joined the calls for a special prosecutor at the National Action Network’s weekly rally, which was attended by members of the Tillman family.

“The attorney general needs to take this case out of Queens,” Sharpton said.

On Monday, Police Commissioner Bill Bratton in an unrelated press conference defended the Queens cops’ actions.

“The best way to not get shot by New York City police officers is to not carry a gun and not raise that gun toward them,” Bratton said.

A spokesman for the attorney general said the office is still looking into the matter.

Lichtman said “the NYPD shouldn’t be afraid of an independent investigation.”

He later added that while he has great empathy and appreciation for the danger police officers face in their day-to-day duties, there is evidence that “you can’t trust the NYPD to police themselves,” referring to an ongoing investigation that alleges high-ranking police officials, who have since been reassigned, issued gun licenses in exchange for bribes.

Sanders and others say there is video surveillance that proves Tillman did not have a gun on him when he was shot.

The lawmaker said it will be released in due time.

“What is done in the dark will come to light,” he said.

He urged all those who may have footage of the incident to hold onto it until it is determined if Schneiderman or Brown will investigate the case.

He also urged them not to hand over evidence to “just any officer,” citing complaints of police intimidation regarding the case.

Officers barged into one woman’s house, Sanders said, and asked to see her tape after quickly flashing their badge.

“Now she says her VCR set doesn’t work that well,” he said.

Members of the family and the community were told by someone affected by a cop-involved shooting to persevere in their fight for a special prosecutor.

Nicole Paultre Bell — the widow of Sean Bell, who was killed in 2006 in Queens after cops fired 50 rounds into his car the morning before his wedding — said the Tillmans “have to make a movement for your loved one.”

“When are we going to stop talking about this and start being about it,” she later said. “What are we going to do different?”

Bell also said “everyone” needs to be held accountable for their part in the investigation, turning to Sanders and adding “that means you, too.”

The cops in Bell’s case were indicted, but later acquitted of all charges.

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Welcome to the discussion.


  • CleanUpJamaicaQueens posted at 10:51 am on Sat, Apr 30, 2016.

    CleanUpJamaicaQueens Posts: 249

    Nine times out of ten, when a person gets shot (or killed) by the police, as did George Tillman recently in South Ozone Park, people do stupid s**t, they mouth off, they start running, they go after the officer or worse they have a gun out or in their waste band, which more than likely will get you fact to face with the grim reaper. And many before this even happens are engaging in stupid ass behavior like drinking out in public, smoking a joint out in the open or a number of stupid ass shit that people do, which catches the eye of the police.

    In the article:

    “When are we going to stop talking about this and start being about it,” she later said. “What are we going to do different?” Bell also said “everyone” needs to be held accountable for their part in the investigation, turning to Sanders and adding “that means you, too.”

    Well, Ms. Bell, what people can do different is STOP DOING STUPID S**T like carrying a gun for once. Yes, everyone needs to be held accountable and that includes everyone in many of these cases and that includes the person who got shot.

    My entire life, all my friends throughout my life, all the people I have worked with, all the people I have hung out with of all nationalities and races, NOT one of them have been shot by the police, not one of them was walking around carrying a gun, not one of them have been beaten up by the police or been stopped for doing absolutely nothing.

    Well, you might not like what I have to say or you may disagree with me, but bottom line, many of these cases would have not happened if the victim did not do STUPID S**T. I mean we are talking about adults, who should know better, but obviously do not.

    With the Tillman incident, folks in Jamaica are up in arms, but this would not have happened if Tillman followed common sense (I mean the guy was a father of five, what the hell was he thinking) or listened to Chris Rock.



  • CleanUpJamaicaQueens posted at 7:45 pm on Fri, Apr 29, 2016.

    CleanUpJamaicaQueens Posts: 249

    Well if such a tape exists that Senator Sanders states, why is it not being shown. This whole thing stinks since there is so many conflicting stories, but Bratton is right, if you don't want to get shot, don't have a gun on you and for peace sake, why run if you are not doing anything wrong.

    And we have seen it happen many times before too.