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Updated: Rock Island Police found to be justified in fatal shooting of DeShawn Tatum
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Rock Island

Updated: Rock Island Police found to be justified in fatal shooting of DeShawn Tatum

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No criminal charges will be filed against the four Rock Island police officers involved in the fatal shooting of DeShawn Tatum on April 1.

DeShawn L. Tatum

DeShawn L. Tatum

Officers Paul Scully, Zachary Costas, Andrew Lawler and Jacob Waddle were involved in the foot chase and shooting of Tatum, 25.

Tatum allegedly ran from officers in the area of 12th Street and 31st Avenue, stole a car from a bystander at a nearby gas station, and crashed the car into the building, dragging officers Waddle and Scully behind him.

State's Attorney Dora Villarreal released the ruling Wednesday along with police body camera footage, footage from the gas station, and a social media video posted March 31 that shows Tatum in front of a police car waving what appears to be a gun and making threats against the police.

Villarreal's report outlined the events of the day:

Officers Lawler and Costas approached Tatum at the Chippiannock Cemetery, where Scully had spotted him. Tatum ran when he saw the officers, dropping a black backpack Costas picked up.

The backpack contained a Glock 9mm-17 round capacity magazine, two live 9mm Luger cartridges, one 50-round Luger 9mm box of ammunition; six sealed bags each containing suspected marijuana; and one orange medication bottle containing various unidentified pills, according to the report.

Black backpack.jpg

Officer body camera video shows Lawler and Costas chasing Tatum down a street toward the gas station. Tatum jumps and turns as he runs by a Dumpster, according to footage from Waddle's squad car, as Tatum allegedly dumped his gun, which was later recovered there by police.

Captured with Snagit 2021.3.1.9423

Tatum rounds the corner to the gas station parking lot and pushes a woman out of the way to get into a white Chrysler, according to body camera and gas station footage.

It was the gas station owner's car, the report said, and the woman was an employee who was considering buying the vehicle.

The employee recognized Tatum as a frequent customer. He asked in a panicked voice if he could borrow her car and pushed her aside when she said it wasn't hers.

Scully and Waddle's cruiser blocked Tatum's exit. Lawler, still in foot pursuit, joined them, and they pointed their guns at Tatum and ordered him out of the car. 

Tatum put the car in reverse and drove backwards into the building, hitting Scully and Waddle with the driver's side door, which was open, and dragging them. Waddle blacked out.

Waddle's body camera footage shows Tatum trying to grab his gun while the car is reversing. It fired, shattering the passenger side window and grazing Costas' head. 

Costas and Lawler fired at Tatum, to protect Waddle and Scully, who were under the car, according to the investigation. Scully fired at Tatum while being dragged.

After Tatum was shot, he was moved to the ground, and an officer arrived to help give him CPR until paramedics arrived seven minutes later. He died at UnityPoint Trinity - Rock Island. An autopsy found he died from gunshot wounds to his head and chest.

The officers were treated and released from UnityPoint and put on administrative leave.

Villarreal's report says Illinois police officers can only use deadly force if they believe it is necessary to prevent death or great bodily harm to themselves or others, or if it is necessary to arrest someone who has indicated they will  endanger human life or inflict great bodily harm.

"After reviewing all of the video and audio of the officers who were at the scene, along with the surveillance footage from the Chicken Shack (the gas station), it is clear that although Tatum dropped the gun he had during the foot pursuit, he used a stolen vehicle as a weapon to drag and injure several officers and also attempted to disarm another during the collision into the Chicken Shack. After the white car collided with the wall and stopped, Tatum remained an imminent threat to all of the officers at the scene since the car was still running," Villarreal said in the report.

Rock Island Fifth Ward Alderman Dylan Parker called for the effectiveness of foot pursuits to be evaluated.

"Are foot pursuits necessary? How effective are they at detaining individuals? How often do they result in injury or death for officers or members of the public?" he wrote in a statement. "The Rock Island Police Department doesn't even record this data so a data-driven assessment as to whether the risks related to foot pursuits outweigh the potential benefits — regardless of ethical questions, too.

"While the attention, today, is an exoneration of the police's behavior, I challenge city staff, my colleagues on City Council and members of the general public to consider why Mr. Tatum and members of the Rock Island Police Department were put in that situation in the first place.

"One life lost is too many. The loss of even one life should prompt us to examine the circumstances that led to the tragedy. We, as policymakers, have a responsibility to ensure the agents of state violence under our authority have the appropriate policies to check that danger."​

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