ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Second Judicial District Attorney Kari Brandenburg’s office announced Wednesday that it will not seek charges against APD officer Martin Smith for his fatal shooting of Daniel Tillison last year.
Tillison, 31, was allegedly selling stolen stereo equipment in a small parking lot in front of an apartment complex in the 8200 block of Marquette NE on March 19, 2012.
Smith was the only officer who responded to an anonymous call about stolen merchandise, according to police. He arrived on scene, got out of his police vehicle and began talking to Tillison. The exchange quickly became confrontational.
Tillison put the black Mitsubishi SUV he was driving into gear, crashed into one vehicle and then the officer’s vehicle, police said.
Smith believed that Tillison pointed a gun at him during the encounter, Police Chief Ray Schultz said at the time. The object turned out to be a cellphone.
“It is the conclusion of this office that there is no probable cause to charge Officer Martin Smith with any crime in connection with the death of Daniel Tillison,” prosecutors wrote in their report, released Wednesday. “Thorough analysis of available evidence indicates that Officer Martin Smith shot Daniel Tillison in self defense.”
In a letter to the DA’s Office, Tillison’s aunt, Christal Kennerson, wrote that her nephew lived “two lives” — one in which he struggled with heroin addiction and committed crimes to support his habit, and another in which he was a vibrant, loving father of three.
Tillison, whose family said he was known as “Oreo,” had an arrest record that dated back to the late 1990s and included several drug-related convictions and a year in prison.
But according to his aunt’s letter, he never carried weapons. And police, including Smith, knew that, Kennerson wrote.
“Officer Smith did not have the right under any circumstances to kill an unarmed man,” she wrote.
According to the DA’s report, Smith fired one shot at a tire on the vehicle Tillison was driving.
But it wasn’t until Tillison’s “hand began to come up and Officer Smith saw a black object in Mr. Tillison’s hand. Officer Smith stated that the object looked like a weapon,” the report states.
“Officer Smith stated that initially he felt threatened by the vehicle as it was driving forward towards him, but he was able to move out of the way,” according to the report. “Officer Smith stated that the motion of Mr. Tillison’s hand with the black object is what made him feel threatened. …”
Smith has been with the Albuquerque Police Department since 1994. He left the department for a time, before the shooting, for military service.