St. Louis Officer Suspended For Allegedly Torturing, Threatening Prisoner
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
A veteran St. Louis police officer has been suspended without pay for torturing or threatening to torture a handcuffed prisoner by pressing a stun gun against him in an attempt to learn his name, the Post-Dispatch has learned.
Police Chief Joe Mokwa acknowledged Thursday that Detective Michael Tillman, 39, was suspended Dec. 21, the day after the incident. Mokwa confirmed that a lieutenant witnessed the incident inside the South Patrol station, on Sublette Avenue, and reported it to superiors.
Tillman, who has been on the force for 16 years, declined comment to a reporter Thursday. His lawyer, Neil J. Bruntrager, said the stun gun in question was inoperable.
"It clearly was not working," Bruntrager said.
A stun gun is a hand-held device that delivers a painful shock with an electric arc between two electrodes when pressed against a person and fired. The device at issue was Tillman's personal property and not authorized by the Police Department, sources there said.
The department does use Tasers, which can fire two small barbs that deliver a debilitating electric jolt. A Taser also can be used as a contact stun gun.
"Whether it was working or not, it was intimidating, and we don't tolerate that kind of police behavior," Mokwa said.
The prisoner told police he was not injured, and he has not filed a complaint with the internal affairs unit.
Various police sources gave this account:
Tillman, who only recently joined the South Patrol detective bureau after working in uniformed patrol in the 1st District, was on a special anti-robbery detail last week. On Dec. 20, a man seen in an area where several robberies had occurred was brought in for questioning and refused to identify himself.
Tillman demanded that the man, in his 20s, give his name and allegedly pressed a stun gun first to the man's neck, then to groin and finally to his arm.
In later questioning by investigators, the prisoner said the stun gun had not injured him. The man told police he felt no pain when the gun was pressed against his neck and groin, but felt a slight sting or shock when it was placed against his arm.
The lieutenant told investigators he witnessed the incident and saw the prisoner jerk back his arm when the stun gun was pressed against it.
"The prisoner later said he didn't want to give his name because he didn't want to go back to prison," said a source close to the case. The man, who is on parole from a robbery conviction and was arrested for parole violation, could not be reached.
When the internal affairs investigation is completed, Tillman will be told of any disciplinary action recommended against him. He then can accept that discipline, contest it by asking for a Police Board trial, or resign.
You don't need a name to be arrested but you do for making bond.