TAYLOR — A Police Department internal probe has cleared an officer to return to work pending a report from the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office on the fatal shooting of an Eastpointe man on Dec. 23.
The officer shot and killed Terry Nick Tillinger, 56, while investigating thefts of businesses in the area of 26980 Trol-ley Drive, which includes a number of warehouses. Prosecutors are investigating the circumstances of the shooting to determine whether they believe the use of deadly force was justified.
“It’s a process,” Lt. Mary Sclabassi said. “Now we’ll let the Prosecutor’s Office review everything, and we’ll work with them and do whatever we need to do.”
All allegations within the county boundaries in which police officers or public officials are suspected of misconduct, corruption or other criminal activity are referred to the Public Integrity Unit of that office; unit members then conduct complete and independent investi-gations.
The officer was checking the area about 5 a.m. and came upon Tillinger inside a storage bin outside a warehouse. Tillinger and a GMC Sonoma pickup truck parked nearby matched the subject description in a string of thefts, police said.
Upon seeing the officer, Tillinger ran toward the truck, which already was running, yelling to the officer that he had a gun. Police said Tillinger then jumped into the truck as the officer closed in on foot.
The officer then reached in to apprehend Tillinger, who put the truck into gear, dragging the officer for several yards through the parking lot. The officer pulled himself into the truck, and Tillinger allegedly contended he still had a gun and reached toward the floorboard.
Police said the officer, fearing Tillinger was reaching for a gun, fired a shot, striking him in the side.
The Michigan State Police Crime Scene Unit assisted Taylor police at the scene. During a search they found several cutting implements under the driver’s seat, where Tillinger had been seated. Among them was a 12-inch knife.
Tillinger was taken to Oakwood Hospital & Medical Center in Dearborn, where he died of his injuries, police said.
They also said he had an extensive criminal history, with arrests in Michigan, Connecticut, Florida and Virginia.
The Taylor officer, a seven-year department veteran, remains on paid administrative leave.