Cameron Tillman was a 14-year-old freshman at Ellender High School in Terrebonne Parish, Louisiana, who was described as a “tremendous athlete” by a teacher there, but who was taking his freshman year off from sports to hit the books and raise his grades.
Sadly, Tillman will not get the opportunity to boost his GPA, or to play sports, because a sheriff’s deputy shot him dead Tuesday night as he answered a knock on the door of an empty house where he and some friends were hanging out.
The house on Kirkglen Loop, near the town of Houma, had been vacant for over one year, and was known as a spot where local teens were often seen coming and going. But this time, when someone saw a group of kids entering the house, the unidentified person called 911 to report a break-in — and told police that one of the kids in the house had a gun.
When one of the sheriff’s deputies responding to the call knocked on the door, according to Tillman’s brother, who was also inside the unoccupied house, Cameron Tillman answered it.
“My little brother thought somebody was just clowning, because somebody is always clowning by the door,” said Andre Tillman. “He opened, and the man just shot him. He didn’t have nothing in his hand.”
Police said that gun was found “in close proximity” to the slain body of Cameron Tillman, but they have not said whether they believe that the teenager was brandishing the weapon at the time he was shot and killed by the deputy.
But Tillman’s relatives described the 14-year-old as a timid young man who would have been too frightened to confront police, much less aim a gun at an officer.
“He stayed out of trouble. He was just a good kid,” Tillman’s cousin Josh Miles told the Houma Today newspaper. “I told the sheriff that as scared as he was, he’d never point anything at anybody.”
One of Tillman’s high school teachers, Michael Lagarde, also praised the basketball-football two-sport athlete as “a good kid, never caused any trouble.,” adding that he considered Tillman “one of my sons.”
Lagarde said that he had recently attempted to purchase the abandoned house as a rental property, and knew that the house was just an empty shell. There was “no way” that Tillman and his friends were attempting to burglarize the house, because there was nothing there to take, Lagarde said.
The shooting is yet another in a series of killings of teens and young men by police around the country in recent weeks, the latest prior to Tuesday being last week’s slaying by police of 22-year-old Tommy McClain in Eureka, California.
The officer who killed Cameron Tillman has not been named publicly, but police said he is a seven-year veteran of the force who, like Tillman, is African-American.
[Image via WWL-TV]