JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A Jacksonville grandmother is calling for justice for her grandson, 18-year-old Devon Gregory, who she identified as the person shot and killed by four police officers during a traffic stop Tuesday night on Jacksonville’s Westside.
Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office Assistant Chief T.K. Waters said that officers shot a passenger in a vehicle who became agitated during a traffic stop about 10:40 p.m. at the intersection of San Juan and Cassat avenues.
Water said officers, who initially pulled over the car with three people inside for failing to maintain a single lane, tried to deescalate the situation. He said after several minutes of trying to talk with the passenger who refused to comply with demands to get out of the car, four officers fired shots.
While police did not say what caused the escalation between Gregory refusing to comply to officers opening fire, JSO on Wednesday released a photo of a handgun that the email identified as “the firearm that the subject possessed.”
Tillman’s grandmother, Robin Yousman, said her grandson was in the car with his two cousins and he had most likely just gotten off from his job at McDonald’s. During the stop, Yousman said the cousins were pulled out of the vehicle by JSO K-9s, but her grandson refused to get out of the car.
The officers, the driver and the backseat passenger were not hurt in the shooting.
Yousman said the gun did not belong to her grandson and he may not have even known it was in the car as it wasn’t his vehicle. She also said 35 shots were fired at Tillman.
JSO has not said how many shots were fired, only that four officers did fire shots. Other than giving the reason for the traffic stop, police did not answer any questions about the shooting on Wednesday.
A woman who did not want to give her name was at her home around the corner. Her neighbor heard an officer shouting commands, but all this woman heard was the gunfire.
“It was like somebody threw out firecrackers. Boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom. It was many, many gunshots,” she said.
I spoke w a woman who identified herself as the grandmother of the man who was shot & killed by police last night on San Juan/Cassat Ave. She didn’t give his name but said he’s 19-years-old & was most likely getting off work from a nearby McDonalds. @wjxt4 https://t.co/OgC9UlcUbu— Brittany Muller (@BrittMullerNews) November 18, 2020
Shelia Khalil, who lives in the area, said she heard a single shot before dozens of others.
“He never turned around, he never moved. They just kept talking to him. Finally, I heard one shot. After that ... they were all letting go. All of them. All around that car,” Khalil said.
Tillman had no local arrest history -- only one misdemeanor citation. Police said they didn’t have any issues with the other two people in the car.
JSO said two of the officers involved in the shooting have been with the department for three years. The other two worked for JSO for 10 years and 25 years. It was the first officer-involved shooting for each of them. The officers will be placed on administrative leave, which is standard procedure in all use-of-force incidents.
“Everybody has a right to defend themselves. Those officers had a right to defend themselves,” News4Jax crime and safety expert Ken Jefferson said.
Jefferson, a former JSO officer, cannot stress how important it is to cooperate with police.
“When they’re telling you what to do and you’re not complying and there’s a weapon in the car, it’s a dangerous mix. And the police ask you to show your hands, show your hands. When they ask you to get out of the car, get out of the car. If there’s a weapon there, officers are not going to immediately open fire if they can see your hands,” he said.
According to News4Jax records, this was the 14th person shot by Jacksonville officers this year. Nine of those shootings were fatal.
Last year, JSO had had nine officer-involved shootings -- six of them fatal.
Araceli Gonzalez, who’s affiliated with Black Lives Matter, said she and other members of the community are monitoring this investigation closely after other national cases in which Black people have been killed by police.
“It’s too many casualties,” Gonzalez said. “It’s not just here and there. It’s happening too often. And now it’s coming to our city in Jacksonville. And I’m trying to figure out why are we calling Breonna Taylor, we’re calling George Floyd.”
The timeframe when police body camera video will be made public
The Sheriff’s Office said the officers were wearing body cameras that will be useful in the investigations of the shooting both by JSO and the State Attorney’s Office.
“Let’s give it time to be investigated to see exactly what happened. Let’s see exactly what led up to this particular,” Jefferson said.
Yousman said the family wants a lawyer and to see the body camera video right away.
Historically, some body-worn camera footage in shootings involving JSO could be withheld from the public for more than a year. But under new guidelines adopted by the State Attorney’s Office, the video of Tuesday evening’s deadly shooting should be made public in a matter of weeks.
“We want to see all the body cameras. There’s no way that we shoot a person 35 times. I don’t care what the refusal was,” Gonzalez said.
The wait on the public release of body camera footage shouldn’t be much longer than 30 days because, under the State Attorney’s Office’s new guidelines, law enforcement agencies have 30 days to object to video release. If there isn’t a credible objection, the guidelines state, “the State Attorney’s Office agrees that the swift and certain public release of BWC footage in OICI (officer-involved critical incidents) is in the public’s best interest.”
Jefferson said letting the public see what happened is critical to State Attorney Melissa Nelson, who has decided to release footage sooner.
“It was totally outrageous that they held the bodycam footage as long as they did on previous police shootings. It’s been over a year sometimes they’ve kept footage,” Jefferson said. “And she vowed and they vowed that there’s no real legitimate reason to withhold it from the public.”