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September 24, 2017

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Police cameras captured gunfight with suspect, rescue of girl held hostage

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Steve Marcus

Metro Police Assistant Sheriff Tom Roberts watches body camera video of a June 24, 2017 officer-involved shooting during a news conference at Metro Police headquarters Wednesday, June 28, 2017.

Metro Police Discuss June 24 Shooting

Metro Police Assistant Sheriff Tom Roberts speaks about a June 24, 2017 officer-involved shooting that occurred in the 1900 block of Bookbinder Road during a news conference at Metro Police headquarters Wednesday, June 28, 2017. Launch slideshow »

After fleeing the house where her boyfriend shot her, the woman told police she believed the man would kill their 3-year-old daughter and that he had said he would engage responding officers in a shootout.

And when Metro Police met 56-year-old George Tillman, who was armed with a gun and an ammunition belt, late Saturday at the front door — 1928 Bookbinder Drive, near Lake Mead Boulevard and Torrey Pines Drive — he appeared ready for a confrontation.

But he shut the door, later returning to slam the security screen door.

The first rounds went off amid brief pauses as Tillman shot toward his backyard, where officers stood surrounding the house. Then he shot outside several more times.

And when a SWAT team breached the entrance at 12:04 a.m., he shot at the officers for the last time.

The dramatic shootout and rescue of the child was captured on officer body-worn cameras showed Wednesday afternoon by Clark County Assistant Sheriff Tom Roberts, who provided further details from Metro’s headquarters.

A nearby resident called 911 about 9:49 p.m. when a woman appeared at his door saying her boyfriend was trying to “murder” her, Roberts said. The second call came in nine minutes later, saying it appeared like the woman was bitten by her boyfriend because a “large chunk” of skin was missing from her arm and she was “dizzy.”

The third call at 10:41 p.m. was a clarification: It wasn’t a bite, it was a gunshot wound, Roberts said. That’s when officers and medics rushed to the scenes.

Talking to the woman at the scene and later at University Medical Center, officers determined that the man remained at the couple’s house and their daughter was with him, Roberts said.

Meanwhile, police were trying to negotiate with Tillman, who was only responding with gunfire, Roberts said. The first two rounds did not strike anyone or seemingly anything.

The second gunfire volley struck two vehicles, a mailbox and a tree, Roberts said.

Sometime during the shootout, the woman told police that she thought Tillman would kill their daughter.

Taking in that information and Tillman’s previous history with local police, including a time where he was legally held for a mental evaluation, “the SWAT team then determined that the crisis entry had to be made to save the life of the child,” Roberts said.

So the SWAT officers breached the entrance and a group of them rushed in as a fire alarm blared.

As they entered — first Theodore Carrasco, 36, followed by Cody Thompson, 33, and the rest of the officers — Tillman retreated to a bedroom, firing six rounds, only striking a wall, Roberts said.

Carrasco returned fire, then Thompson, Roberts said. They each shot three times.

Another officer rescued the girl, who was on a bed at “arm’s length” from Tillman who now lay gravely wounded, Roberts said.

The rescue was captured on that officer’s camera.

“You OK?” the officer is heard asking her. “Yeah,” she replies with her toddler’s voice. “Where are you hurt, baby girl?”

The officer and the girl make their exit and medics rush to attend her. She’s treated for “minor bumps and scrapes” and taken to UMC, where her father later dies, Roberts said.

Roberts said that officers were lucky not to be shot that night.

Carrasco and Thompson were placed on administrative leave while the investigation continued. The woman who was shot remained hospitalized Wednesday afternoon but is expected to survive, Roberts said.

“Our officers handle thousands of calls every year, many of them (are) critical, dynamic situations,” Roberts said. “But these officers often go into residences at night not knowing where the threat is in the home or what they may encounter. On this night … officers did know a 3-year-old little girl was being held by her father and was armed and (he) was threatening to shoot her and the responding officers. What those officers did that night to get that little girl out safely, makes me and this agency proud.”

Although Tillman had multiple felony arrests for suspicion of domestic violence in California, he was allowed to own firearms because those charges had either been dismissed or brought down to misdemeanors, Roberts said. Locally he also had a history of domestic-related incidents, but it wasn’t immediately clear if he was ever prosecuted.

This was the 10th police shooting in Metro’s jurisdiction so far in 2017, the fifth fatal. At the same time last year, Metro had investigated six total, two with fatalities.