T-Boz Calls For Justice After Cousin With Mental Health Issues Was Shot By Police

By Victoria Kim 09/29/17

The singer's cousin was gunned down by police in an act that she says went "beyond excessive force."


Should police officers know how to handle people suffering from mental health issues? It could have kept Eddie Russell Jr alive, but instead he was shot 18 times by police.

Russell’s famous cousin, Tionne Watkins (aka T-Boz of TLC), is now calling for justice, claiming that police in Peoria, Illinois acted irresponsibly on September 20 when they shot and killed her 25-year-old cousin.

“My cousin was shot 18 times including the face and back of his head! He harmed no one ever! He had mental health issues and the cops knew that,” she posted on Instagram after the tragic incident.

According to the NY Daily News, Russell had just been released from a “mental health facility” before he was killed.

According to Peoria police, which detailed the incident in a Facebook post, they identified Eddie Russell as a bank robbery suspect after reviewing surveillance footage from the bank. After tracking him down at home and deploying a Special Response Team (SRT), police claim Russell “emerged from his home and aggressively advanced toward SRT officers with a handgun.”

Police shot and killed Russell, reportedly firing “approximately 18 shots” and striking Russell “17-20 times.” The young man was pronounced dead at the scene.

But the family’s account of the incident differs from the police. “The cops told his mother to call him out on a bullhorn, used her saying, ‘We will give him the help he needs,’” T-Boz said. “And he came out because he heard his mother and they used beyond excessive force to gun him down also with heavy artillery used in warfare."

She added, “They haven’t even gave my cousin the respect of trying to call and explain what happened in detail to her child. This wasn’t a hostage situation. He didn’t threaten anyone’s life! This was a mentally ill young man who needed help and should have received just that. His mother has tried for many years to get her son mental health counseling he needed! The system failed him and her!”

T-Boz disputes the police’s claims that Russell carried a gun, posting a still image of the surveillance video of her cousin just moments before he died.

According to the “Waterfalls” singer, no one will know the truth of what happened except the police and her family, saying that neighbors were kept out of a four-block radius of the home.

During the “standoff,” Russell’s father had tried getting police to let him inside the house so he could talk to his son, but they allegedly told him to just “trust us.”

Another family member told the Journal Star, “That’s why we’re in shock that it turned out like it did.”

People with mental health issues are especially vulnerable to trigger-happy cops. According to the Treatment Advocacy Center, a mental health advocacy organization, people suffering from mental illness are 16 times more likely to be killed by the police.

According to a report by USA Today, a lack of mental health training is a major factor in deadly police standoffs. Some police departments are trying to prevent these tragedies from happening by pairing up police officers with mental health professionals on emergency calls.

"The police aren’t equipped to deal with a mentally ill person," T-Boz told TMZ. "The crime doesn’t fit the punishment. This child had a non-violent history...he was mentally ill."

The family plans to sue Peoria Police. They say PPD still has not reached out to them.

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Victoria is interested in anything that has to do with how mind-altering substances impact society. Find Victoria on LinkedIn or Tumblr