St. Louis, MO – Protesters have been staging demonstrations in front of City Hall and the St. Louis Galleria mall in support of a gunman who was fatally shot by police on Aug. 31.
The suspect, 23-year-old Terry Tillman, was inside the Galleria when an officer spotted an “extended magazine” tucked into his waistband, KSDK reported.
The officer made contact with Tillman and told him about the mall’s no-gun policy, at which point he took off running, police said.
Officers chased after Tillman as he ran out of the mall and onto a parking structure nearby.
He then raised his firearm and pointed it at a Richmond Heights police officer, prompting another officer to open fire, KSDK reported.
The officer fired seven rounds, hitting the suspect three to five times, police said.
He was fatally struck in the front of his torso, despite protesters’ claims that he was shot in the back, KSDK reported.
Police said they later learned that Tillman could not legally possess a firearm due to his criminal history and he had an outstanding felony warrant for stealing.
“They just want to switch the whole story up and then have another,” one of Tillman’s friends told the news outlet. “Even if he was running away, you could’ve let him go. You could’ve shot him in the leg and he would’ve stopped.”
Approximately 25 demonstrators gathered at the Galleria on Sept. 2 to protest the officer-involved shooting.
They marched through the mall, then headed over to the intersection of Clayton Road and Brentwood Boulevard to block traffic.
About five minutes later, the mob went back to the mall, but were turned away by Galleria management, KSDK reported.
Police ordered them to disperse, so the protesters went and blocked traffic at the intersection of Galleria Parkway and Brentwood Boulevard.
Police again ordered them to disperse approximately 12 minutes later.
Two of the protesters ignored the officers’ orders, and remained out in the street. Both were arrested.
On Sept. 6, Tillman’s supporters staged two demonstrations – one at the Galleria and one outside City Hall, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.
“It feels great to see everyone here supporting my brother,” Tillman’s sister, Rachel Jones, told the news outlet. “The police know what they did and they know they are wrong.”
Approximately 50 people took part in the demonstrations. Some of them were armed.
A group of about 20 people walked out onto South Bend Boulevard and blocked traffic until police warned them to get out of the road, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.
The group then marched up Interstate 64 to the Galleria, and continued to march inside and outside the mall.
“This is an open-carry state for all, not just the white man,” protest organizer Mike Avery told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “I’m here because Richmond Heights needs to see a black man with a gun. Tillman is the reason we are here. He was a black man with a gun and in my eyes that’s why he was shot dead.”
Florissant resident Toni Broyles said that the officer-involved shooting was a “double standard.”
“Two [white] people were just shooting at the police and they were taken in alive, but it seems like when a black person comes out with a gun there’s never any de-escalation, it’s just shoot to kill and they’re never taken in alive to tell their side of the story,” Broyles declared.
Police said they have been reviewing 158 hours of surveillance footage taken from the mall property as part of the investigation into the officer-involved shooting, KSDK reported.
St. Louis Prosecuting Attorney Wesley Bell said that his office has been monitoring the investigation.
“In tragic cases like these, it is important to understand that the need to inform the public has to be balanced with ensuring the integrity of the investigation,” Bell said on Sept. 3. “We are receiving constant updates, and I am confident that everything that needs to be done is being done.”
“I am fully aware of how sensitive this issue is and I want to assure all residents a thorough and detailed investigation is being conducted,” he continued. “I ask for patience as this process unfolds and I will update the community as more information becomes available.”