TLC singer T-Boz is calling for justice after her cousin, who she said was mentally ill, died after being shot by police 18 times in Peoria last week.
Eddie Russell Jr., 25, was shot and killed on Sept. 20 after a standoff with officers at his home following a bank robbery, police said in a statement.
The incident began at 12:49 p.m., the Peoria Police Department posted on Facebook, when officers responded to a report of a robbery at First Mid-Illinois Bank & Trust, located at 3037 N. Sterling Ave.
Authorities said the suspect – who police identified as Russell based on surveillance footage – fled the scene westbound into a residential area after the incident.
Officers then arrived at his home in the 2800 block of West Sheffield Drive, according to police, at which point they "attempted to contact Russell for over two hours." [[448086053, C]]
At around 3:46 p.m., more than an hour after the Peoria Police Special Response Team was activated, authorities said Russell "emerged from his home and aggressively advanced toward SRT officers with a handgun."
Six officers opened fire, according to police, striking Russell, who was pronounced dead at the scene.
The police chief initially said he believed five to six shots were fired, but the Peoria County Coroner told WEEK-TV that Russell was shot 18 times. Police later said that was consistent with evidence gathered at the scene.
Authorities said a handgun was also recovered from the scene of the shooting that matched the description of the gun used in the robbery.
T-Boz, whose real name is Tionne Watkins, refuted that claim on social media multiple times in the days following the shooting.
She posted a photo on both Instagram and Twitter that she claimed was Russell captured on surveillance footage from the bank, writing in part, "They Keep saying he had a gun! I don't see a gun in his hand at the bank they say he tried to rob! That's NOT A GUN!" [[448082643, C]]
The singer also said police used Russell’s mother to draw him out of the house during the standoff.
"The cops told his mother to call him out on a bullhorn USED her saying ‘WE WILL GIVE HIM THE HELP HE NEEDS’ and He Came Out Because He Heard His Mother and They used beyond excessive force to gun him down," she wrote.
Police said in their initial statement that officers "attempted to contact the suspect for over two hours utilizing a bullhorn, phone calls, as well as opening the front door and having a family member attempt to contact," but did not give further details on negotiation efforts.
T-Boz made several other claims about the shooting in a lengthy Instagram post, saying that Russell was shot with an AR-15, that none of the officers were wearing body cameras, and that Russell’s 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. [[448082533, C]]
Neither the Peoria Police Department nor the Illinois State Police, who are investigating the incident, immediately responded to a request for comment on the singer’s allegations.
T-Boz said police were aware that her cousin had "mental health issues."
Court records show that Russell was found not guilty by reason of insanity in connection with a 2014 retail theft, in which the Peoria Journal Star reported Russell stole jewelry from a Sears that "he thought he owned" at the time.
Russell’s attorney argued that he had schizophrenia and was off his medicine during the incident, according to the Journal Star, which found that the judge ordered he undergo treatment and be monitored for five years.
That case – for which court records show Russell appeared in court just five days before he was killed – was put on hold pending the outcome of a residential burglary charge filed in 2016, for which a jury found him not guilty in January.
A relative told the Journal Star that Russell was released from an in-residence mental health facility just two days prior to the shooting, while his family members maintained that police were informed about Russell’s problems.
"They could have tased him from 30 feet away," his father Eddie Russell Sr. told the newspaper. "But they grabbed him out of the house. I don’t care what they say."
"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," his father told WEEK-TV. "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."
Court records show that Russell was arrested or ticketed multiple times dating back to 2006, on various charges including littering, trespassing and retail theft – all offenses that T-Boz and his family maintain were not violent.
"No matter what they SAY he did they shot him 18 times he NEVER had a violent record or harmed ANYONE! Not even the day he was shot," T-Boz tweeted Sunday. "Anything he's ever Done Was minor and NON VIOLENT! Eddie Russell Jr -A Human-Being -A Son- Brother-Friend-Nephew - Cousin-HUMAN!" she added on Instagram.
"#JusticeForEddieRussellJr The Punishment Doesn't Fit The Crime! Being that he's known in that small town 4 NOT being violent," she continued on Twitter Monday. "Even if he had a weapon no one was threatened no hostages but yet #DylannRoof MURDERS MANY IN A CHURCH and the police walk him OUT."
"My ❤️Is Broken! U Think The Tragedies That Happen Across The World Wouldn't Happen2 U At Least U Hope They Won't! But To Us It Did," the singer said.
No officers were injured in the shooting, according to police, and all six officers involved were placed on critical incident leave.
Illinois State Police are conducting an investigation into the shooting in accordance with state law, officials said.