Man sentenced to life in prison for fatal 2022 light rail platform shooting

A Ramsey County jury has convicted a man accused of fatally shooting a man on a downtown St. Paul light rail platform.

On Monday, jurors found Shawn Michael Tillman, 35, guilty of first- and second-degree murder, as well as illegal firearm possession, after a two-week trial for the death of Demitri Ellis-Strong.

Initially, Tillman was charged with the sole count of second-degree murder in May of 2022, however, a grand jury indicted him on first-degree premeditated murder, second-degree intentional murder and illegal firearm possession on Aug. 10, 2023.

Court documents also show Judge Sara Grewing sentenced Tillman the same day of his conviction to life at the St. Cloud prison without parole for the first-degree murder conviction, which will be served at the same time as a 60-month sentence for the illegal firearm possession conviction.

RELATED: St. Paul man charged with murder in deadly Green Line platform shooting

Early Tuesday afternoon, the following prepared statements were issued by the Ramsey County Attorney’s Office as well as Metro Transit for the conviction:

“Yesterday’s verdict brought some relief and a measure of justice to the victim’s family and our community. We are grateful to the Metro Transit Police investigators, as well as our prosecutors for their tireless work to bring this case to a successful conclusion.”

John Choi, Ramsey County Attorney

“Mr. Tillman committed the most heinous of crimes and we are pleased that justice was served. I want to applaud the Ramsey County Attorney’s Office for their partnership and diligent work to reach this outcome. I also want to extend my deepest condolences to the family and friends of Mr. Ellis-Strong. While this does not ease the pain of losing a loved one in such a tragic manner, I hope the assurance that his killer will remain behind bars for the rest of his life will bring a small sense of closure.”

Ernest Morales III, Metro Transit Police Chief

A criminal complaint states police responded to a shooting around 4:15 a.m. on May 20, 2022, at the Green Line station near Fifth and Minnesota streets. Officers found Ellis-Strong lying on the light rail platform with several gunshot wounds to the head and torso. Medics pronounced him dead minutes later.

A witness told police he heard two gunshots followed by another two shots before looking outside and seeing the gunman – later identified as Tillman – shoot Ellis-Strong three more times before running away, the complaint states.

Police spoke with a man who had been with the shooter before the incident but said he didn’t know the gunman’s name. He told police the shooter and the victim “have a beef.”

Surveillance footage shows Tillman raising a handgun at Ellis-Strong before firing at him. Then, Ellis-Strong stumbles backward and onto the ground before the shooter walks closer and fires twice more. Finally, as Ellis-Strong is curled up and shielding himself with his arm, Tillman fires a round at his head, then twice more, leaving Ellis-Strong motionless, the complaint states.

In all, the Ramsey County Medical Examiner’s Office determined Ellis-Strong had suffered six gunshot wounds.

An officer reviewing the surveillance footage recognized the shooter as Tillman, who was a suspect in two indecent exposure cases and a criminal sexual conduct case the officer was investigating. Additionally, a DNA sample taken from a face covering that fell out of Tillman’s pocket as he fled the scene matched up with Tillman, the complaint states.

That shooting was one of three fatal shootings within the city in a six-hour span.

RELATED: St. Paul police: 3 dead in separate overnight shootings