Police's inquiry absolves officer

Fayetteville department says fatal shots in struggle justified

FAYETTEVILLE -- The Fayetteville police officer who shot and killed a Marianna man last month followed proper protocol, according to an investigation by the Police Department.

Officer Brandon Jones will return to work after being placed on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of the internal investigation, police spokesman Sgt. Craig Stout said. Cpl. Patrick Hanby, who also was involved in the shooting, wasn't placed on leave, Stout said.

Jones shot Willie Sherman Tillman, 33, four times April 22 during a traffic stop that turned into a fight between Tillman and police inside a moving vehicle. Tillman was taken to a hospital where he died 18 days later.

"The investigation clearly indicated the officers' actions were justified, lawful and proper," the department said in a news release Wednesday. "Both officers' actions were found to be within Fayetteville Police Department Policies, Procedures and Rules."

About 40 Northwest Arkansas residents gathered outside the department Wednesday and repeatedly said "Willie Tillman" in unison during a vigil for Tillman. The vigil and protest were meant to honor Tillman and spotlight racial problems some residents see between the community and the Police Department, said Fernando Garcia, a delegate for the Industrial Workers of the World and one of the organizers of the vigil.

Other organizations involved in the protest included HandsUpNWA, a "movement in Northwest Arkansas whose mission is to raise awareness regarding the infringement of human rights by authorities," according to the group's social media page.

Fayetteville police should be more transparent about what happened to Tillman, protesters said Wednesday. Tillman was not armed, they said.

Prosecutor Matt Durrett said no information, including any video, would be released until the criminal investigation into Tillman's death is completed.

The Washington County sheriff's office was expected to finish its investigation by the end of the week, according to sheriff's spokesman Kelly Cantrell. The file will be turned over to the prosecutor's office.

Residents circulated a petition Wednesday asking police to release recordings and videos. They also asked for more community involvement, including funding a group to watch police officers to better hold them accountable. The petition also asked that Jones be placed on leave without pay.

The group taped the petition to the front door of police headquarters Wednesday night.

Police have said Jones and Hanby acted appropriately in the shooting.

During part of the April 22 fight, Jones was trapped in the moving vehicle with Tillman, who had struck Jones several times and turned the officer's stun gun on the officer, the release said. Jones drew his gun but Tillman grabbed it, according to the report. Jones then shot Tillman in the chest, abdomen and leg, according to the release.

After the vehicle stopped, Tillman was pulled from the vehicle after additional officers arrived, the report said. He was taken to a hospital where he died this week, according to the report.

Police found three shell casings in the vehicle and a fourth inside Jones' gun, the department release said. The gun failed to properly cycle, which may corroborate with Tillman having grabbed the gun, according to the report.

Investigators also found an outline of "latent prints wrapped around the slide of Officer Jones' gun," the police report said.

Tillman had been in trouble with Fayetteville police previously, according to police and court documents.

Fayetteville police found drugs and a gun on Tillman in June and in 2007, according to a profile sheet provided by the Police Department.

Tillman was charged in March with possession of a controlled substance with the purpose of delivering, possession of firearms by a certain person and simultaneously possessing firearms and a controlled substance, Pope County Circuit Court records show.

State Desk on 05/14/2016