Eddie Russell Jr., the 25 year-old younger cousin of Tionne “Tboz” Watkins of the musical group TLC, was shot and killed by Peoria police officers in Illinois on September 20 after the young man – whose mental health issues are well-known in the surrounding community – of robbing a bank. Now the surviving members of Russell’s family, who dispute the officers’ version of events, are maintaining that the force used against him, 18 direct shots in all, was beyond excessive.
The fact that Eddie Russell Jr. was struggling with mental health issues is not in dispute. Three years before he was fatally shot, charges were dismissed against Russell after he’d stolen jewelry from a Sears department store after it was determined by the Court that Russell actually believed in his mind that the department store belonged to him, according to NBC5 Chicago. The Judge in the case ordered that Russell, whose attorney “argued that he had schizophrenia and was off his medicine during the incident”, undergo mental health treatment “and be monitored for five years.” In fact Russell had been released “from an in-residence mental health facility just two days prior to the shooting, while family members maintained that police were informed about Russell’s problems.”
Then on September 20 Peoria police were alerted after Russell was said to have robbed First Mid-Illinois Bank & Trust at 12:49 P.M., allegedly using a gun before fleeing the scene. However, Tboz maintains that the surveillance footage does not in fact show a gun in his hand.
A multitude of police officers arrived at Russell’s mother’s home shortly afterward, and a two-hour stand-off occurred as Peoria police pressured Russell to come out the house. After opening the front door, police called on Russell’s mother to help get the robbery suspect to emerge from the home. “The cops told his mother to call him out on a bullhorn USED her saying ‘WE WILL GIVE HIM THE HELP HE NEEDS,” wrote Tionne Watkins.
Eddie Russell Jr.’s mother didn’t know that when police said they’d get her son the help he needed they meant 18 bullets in his body.
From this point on the account of the family and the account of the police significantly diverge. At 3:46 p.m. police claimed that Russell emerged from the house and “aggressively advanced toward SRT officers with a handgun.” Russell’s father, Eddie Russell Sr., tells a different version of events. “They could have tased him from 30 feet away. But they grabbed him out of the house. I don’t care what they say.” In a statement to WEEK-TV, Russell Sr. elaborated. “I was the best negotiator out here and I say that because he came from my loins. We had a heart to heart, that was my baby. I could have brought him out, he would have heard my voice and knew he was gonna be protected, they didn’t give him a chance.” While the feelings of this grieving father must be respected, it cannot be ruled out that had the father been able to convince his son to come out of the house, Peoria police would’ve still shot him anyway. They may’ve tried to use him the same way they used his mother, to provide false assurances.
After Russell was shot 18 times by the police, his body “was on the ground for eight to 10 hours while police incorrectly told his family members that he had been taken to an area hospital.”
The tangled web of lies woven together by the Peoria police appear to be extensive, including not pronouncing Russell’s body dead until after 5 p.m. while they told his parents that he’d been taken to the hospital. Notably, none of the officers were wearing body cameras, and the street was blocked off ensuring that no one else would capture the incident on camera either. Now Eddie Russell Jr.’s family says they want justice, but as history has shown in cases where people are accused of doing far less than Russell, justice for victims of excessive police force is elusive.