Unsolved San Pablo homicide has led detectives all over California, now they're once again asking the public for help

1 month ago The Mercury News

SAN PABLO — In the years since 27-year-old Shawn Tillis was gunned down by two assailants who sprayed 30 rounds at him while he stood beside his car at Rumrill Gardens, the investigation has led police across California and as far away as south Texas.

Police have put out sketches of four suspects. Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office has offered a $50,000 reward for information that leads to arrests. And now police have released video of the crime in their latest plea to the public for help solving Tillis’ killing. The video includes a plea from an unnamed female family member of Tillis who asks for anyone with information to come forward and “help our family begin the healing process.”

“Shawn was an still is a very integral part of our lives. He was a loving father, son, brother, and husband,” the woman says. “Shawn might not have meant much to everyone else but to us he was everything.”

Tillis was shot and killed a little before 3 a.m. on June 12, 2020, while he stood next to his 2008 Infiniti G35 on the 1300 block of Rumrill Road. Surveillance footage shows the shooters creeping up to the area, one with a semi-automatic pistol, the other holding an assault rifle. After firing dozens of rounds they flee to a stolen Volkswagen Passat, and peel off into the night.

Now, nearly three years later, police have identified several suspects and persons of interest, but no arrests have been made. But police believe Tillis was targeted and ambushed. The suspects appeared to be casing the area, conducting surveillance on him, and were even seen pulling up next to people who had interacted with Tillis earlier in the day, authorities say.

Police pursued two primary — and at times converging — theories behind Tillis’ death: one, that it involved a conflict he’d had a day earlier with a man who took $1,200 from him in a dice game. Two, that it was committed by members of a notorious Oakland group known as the Case Gang, who were linked to numerous robberies, burglaries, police chases, and shootings in the weeks following Tillis’ death.

One thing that appears to back up the latter theory: four days after Tillis was killed, someone shot up a car in Oakland using one of the same guns. And a month after that, police recovered casings from the same gun at the scene of a nonfatal shooting on Sunnyside Street in Oakland. The intended victim in that instance was a former Case Gang member who had been labeled a “snitch” by his former friends, authorities say.

Then there’s the black Volkswagen. While it was eventually recovered at the scene of a hit and run wreck in Oakland, authorities linked the vehicle to one Bay Area crime spree after another in the weeks after Tillis’ death. It was used in a July 13, 2020 robbery in Alameda, in a July 2020 police chase on Seminary Avenue in Oakland where the suspects escaped, and in robberies in Fremont, Union City, and Santa Clara County around the same time, authorities say.

When the Volkswagen was finally impounded by police, they determined it had been stolen from Southern California.

The Oakland suspects including a young man who had been linked to four separate shootings there, as well as a then-16-year-old who racked up 15 arrests since his 11th birthday, and is currently behind bars in a recent violent robbery of a San Leandro cannabis grow warehouse where a group of assailants took a hostage and fatally shot him, court records show.

In late 2020, San Pablo police raided an Oakland home in connection with the investigation and seized an M4 rifle, three loaded pistols, and multiple magazines, authorities say.

While all this was going on, police also investigated suspects closer to home. The man Tillis had lost money to in the dice game was identified as a Richmond-area rapper who associated with North Richmond gang members, but denied knowledge of the homicide. Another of Tillis’ acquaintances, a man who police believe may have let the shooters into the Rumrill Gardens parking lot, was interviewed and firmly denied involvement. When police searched his phone, they found he had researched the home address of a Contra Costa prosecutor who was investigating one of his friends, authorities say.

After police released sketches of four suspects in September 2020, they believe several Case Gang members fled the area to the Central Valley, southern Texas, and locations around the Bay Area, authorities say.

Despite all this, the exact motive and circumstances behind Tillis death remain a mystery, for now.

The video is below. It is graphic.

Anyone with information can contact San Pablo police at 510-215-3255 or email lead Det. Almir Dugonjic directly at [email protected]

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