Sheriff: 14-year-old had semi-automatic-looking BB gun when killed by deputy; family says no

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HOUMA, Louisiana — A 14-year-old boy was shot and killed by a deputy because, the sheriff says, he flung open a door brandishing a BB gun made to look like a Sig Sauer .45-caliber semi-automatic pistol. Relatives of other teens who were there when Cameron Tillman was killed Tuesday evening say that's not true.

Terrebonne Parish Sheriff Jerry Larpenter was not giving interviews Thursday, referring all comments to state police, spokeswoman Dawn Foret said.

State police will not comment until they have finished their investigation, said a spokesman, Trooper Evan Harrell.

Larpenter said Wednesday that deputies were called to the vacant house by a neighbor who said five or six men with guns had gone into it, The Courier (http://bit.ly/1Bbik91) reported.

Teens have used the house as an afternoon hangout since the last tenant left about two years ago, the newspaper reported.

Larpenter said two deputies parked three houses away and one of them went into the open garage.

"He knocked on the door and said 'Sheriff's Office, come out.' A very short time after, Tillman threw the door open brandishing that gun toward the officer," Larpenter told the newspaper. "The officer feared for his life, and, unfortunately, the individual was shot four times. He turned that gun toward the deputy, and that deputy had to shoot or assume he would be shot."

Tillman's aunt, Comeako Tillman, however, said the boy's older brother, who was there, told the family that Cameron Tillman was not carrying a weapon and went to the door expecting a friend.

According to the brother, she said, the deputy "came to the door and did not identify himself and started shooting when Cam opened the door."

Larpenter called the shooting tragic and a freak accident.

"It is fact that they located two weapons that look just like the real McCoy," the sheriff said. He said the boys probably did expect a buddy because the squad cars were out of sight. "I think he was going to play a joke on his friend with the pistol and unfortunately his friends were not out there — two police officers were."

He did not release the deputy's name, saying threats have been made against him. The man is on paid administrative leave. The deputy, like Tillman, is black, Larpenter said.

Family, friends, teachers, classmates and coaches held a vigil at the house Wednesday night. After walking down the road with a sign that read "Justice for Cam," they gathered around a collection of candles, balloons and stuffed animals, praying, crying and singing hymns.

All described the Ellender High School freshman as a good student and a good person.

"He was one that really didn't get in trouble. He was always smiling, not disrespectful, very engaging," said basketball coach Cornell Scott.

Cameron also made the football team in the spring but chose to focus on schoolwork instead, assistant coach Albert Swan said.

"He was a true student-athlete," he said. "It was always academics first, athletics second."


Information from: The Courier, http://www.houmatoday.com

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