Police union officials are concerned T-shirts could put officers at risk

Expletives, targets on garments said to have potential to incite violence


News from around the Baltimore region

September 07, 2005|By Gus G. Sentementes | Gus G. Sentementes,SUN STAFF

T-shirts that Baltimore police union officials worry might incite violence against officers are showing up in a West Baltimore neighborhood after last week's fatal shooting by police of a man wanted in an armed robbery.

The shirts come in at least three styles and at least two colors, black and white. One shirt says: R.I.P. Rocky [Expletive] the police." Another shirt has a rendering of a Baltimore police patch covered with red crosshairs and a target.

"The inference here is that they're promoting the murder of a police officer," said Lt. Frederick V. Roussey, president of the Fraternal Order of Police. "The target with the patch - that really disturbs me."

Roussey said the shirts are being sold on the street, and that the union is trying to determine whether it can pursue legal action against those producing the shirts.

On Thursday, two police officers in Southwest Baltimore pulled over an illegal taxi cab after spotting a man wanted in the armed robbery of a hair salon. Police said the man - Earl T. Tillman, 19, of West Baltimore - pointed a gun at the officers, who fatally shot him while he was in the car. Tillman, whose nickname was "Rocky," did not fire at the officers, police said.

The officers were placed on administrative duty pending completion of the investigation.

Tillman had several arrests on his record. He had been found guilty in July of assault and destruction of property.

Tillman's older sister, Michelle Greene, 23, said yesterday that police did not have to kill him. She said she was not involved with making the T-shirts, but she thinks the police union is over-reacting.

"Nobody's out to kill the police," Greene said. "You're the police. How are you threatened by somebody wearing a T-shirt? You just killed my brother. How are you threatened by a T-shirt?"

Greene conceded her brother may have been involved in the drug trade, but she said that does not mean he deserved to die.

"So he's a drug dealer - we got to kill him? There's a lot of drug dealers out here," she said.

A city police spokesman declined to comment on the shirts.

Tillman's death has drawn sympathy from the West Baltimore neighborhood that he frequented.

Greene said Tillman sometimes lived with her in Park Heights or with an aunt in Edmondson Village. At Edmondson and Loudon avenues, friends created a makeshift memorial along the exterior wall of the Upland Liquor Store.

The wall is peppered with balloons, and notes are scrawled in black marker on the building's Formstone wall.

Several notes say: "[Expletive] the police." Others say: "Death before dishonor" and "Mourn you till I join you."

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