Slain youth's aunt: "Sick to my stomach'

Kharee Tillmon , 18, was gunned down Monday on a crowded North Philadelphia playground.
Kharee Tillmon , 18, was gunned down Monday on a crowded North Philadelphia playground.
Posted: September 13, 2012

CARRIE GARDNER got her teenage son and nephew involved with the nonprofit organization she works for, in hopes that the boys wouldn't end up in jail or dead.

So, when her 18-year-old nephew Kharee Tillmon was gunned down at a crowded playground in North Philadelphia early Monday night, blocks from his home, Gardner's pain was that much worse.

"I'm sick to my stomach," Gardner, 39, who works with God's Love at Work, said Tuesday at a memorial for her nephew, tears streaming down her face behind dark sunglasses. "I see this violence every day. . . . Then it's gonna hit me at home, right in the heart. I can't even save my own baby."

Police said that about 25 people were on the playground just before 6 p.m. Monday when someone put a bullet in the left side of Tillmon's chest, killing him almost instantly. It was the sixth shooting at a city playground in a little more than a month.

A handful of witnesses came forward and provided cops with a description of the shooter, but police in the Homicide Unit said Tuesday night that they had no suspects in the case.

But Tillmon's friends and relatives seem to have an idea of what went down. They said that Tillmon was a good artist who tattooed on the side to make extra money and recently tattooed a man who didn't pay Tillmon the $10 he owed for the tat. When Tillmon confronted the man about the money on Monday, friends and relatives said, he was shot.

Gardner said that she's been trying to find out from her nephew's friends who the shooter is.

She fears that Tillmon's friends might retaliate, she said during Tuesday's memorial, which drew about 100 mourners to the scene of the killing, at Cecil B. Moore Recreation Center playground, on 22nd Street near Huntingdon.

Tillmon's mother, Joshawn Gardner, 42, said that the teen had plans to start classes soon at Community College of Philadelphia and aspired to go to culinary school. She said that her son had been in trouble in the past "for being at the wrong place at the wrong time" and was sent to George Junior Republic, a school for at-risk youth in western Pennsylvania, but he'd been doing well since he graduated this year.

Court records show that Tillmon was charged with aggravated assault and firearms offenses in 2010, but that the charge was moved to juvenile court. It's unclear if he was ever convicted, because juvenile records are sealed.

Tillmon's aunt called on the people who were at the playground at the time of her nephew's shooting to provide information. She said that she was still in shock that he was gunned down in the middle of a playground where he spent much of his time.

"If you know whoever did this, tell. It was a playground full of people," she said, shaking her head.

"I'm angry because these kids don't know. They don't value life," she added. "I've never seen a group of people like this in my life. You gotta want to stop killing, stop shooting."

Contact Morgan Zalot at or 215-854-5928. Follow her on Twitter @morganzalot. Read her blog at

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