Man killed in Los Angeles sheriff’s custody was St. Martin standout

As Tammy Holliman McMillan prepares to bury her son this weekend, she wants to know more about how he wound up dead at a Los Angeles McDonald’s, close to 2,000 miles from his hometown of St. Martin.

She said she also believes the state’s mental health system is partially responsible for his death.

Timothy McMillan, 38, died Sept. 13 while being restrained by sheriff’s deputies in Los Angeles.

According to the L.A. Times, McMillan approached a parking enforcement officer early that morning, yelled at her and punched her in the head before stealing her city vehicle.

He then drove to a McDonald’s parking lot, entered the restaurant and started screaming at customers. Deputies responded to a disturbance call.

When they arrived, they handcuffed McMillan and restrained his legs after he attacked them, causing scratches and cuts to four deputies, the Times reported.

At some point McMillan became unresponsive.

Firefighters attempted live-saving measures but were unable to revive him, the Times reported.

The Los Angeles medical examiner’s office is waiting on a toxicology report and other tests before they make any conclusions about his death, Tammy McMillan said.

She has requested video of the autopsy, as well as all reports from the investigators looking into what happened.

Other media reports mention McMillan as acting erratically, behavior not surprising to his mother.

Promising future

Not so long ago, Timothy Shannon McMillan had a bright future ahead of him.

McMillan played football and baseball at St. Martin middle and high school, according to his obituary. He was the founding president of Phi Beta Kappa at the high school, widely considered to be among the nation’s most prestigious honor societies.

After high school, he attended four separate colleges: Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, Southern Mississippi Gulf Coast University, William Carey University and Tulane University.

His mother said McMillan planned on continuing his studies at Ole Miss, eventually wanting to become a prosecutor. He worked double shifts, six-days-a-week at Mary Mahoney’s Old French House Restaurant in Biloxi to pay for that dream.

“He was very ambitious. He looked forward. He had a future,” Tammy said.

But crippling mental health issues would interrupt those plans.

McMillan started showing symptoms in his mid-20s, she said, a common age for mental illnesses to first appear.

At age 25 he was admitted to South Mississippi State Hospital in Purvis, but was let go after 30 days, Tammy said.

When he was let out, she said he began to exhibit all the the symptoms of full-blown schizophrenia as well as violent behavior. It was so bad she purchased a .45 caliber handgun for protection. Timothy’s mother said she did everything she could, trying unsuccessfully to admit him to other facilities across the state. She even contacted the “Dr. Phil” show to see if they would help.

Off the grid

Not long after that, Tammy learned McMillan had taken a plane to New York. Later, he moved to Los Angeles.

One side effect of schizophrenics is an inability for a person to believe they have anything wrong with them, increasing the likelihood they choose not to take medicine that would help them. It’s also difficult for schizophrenics to keep a job, which might provide insurance or money to pay for medication.

Tammy said the state didn’t give him the treatment he was entitled too.

“They let him out too soon. He shouldn’t have been on the street. He needed treatment. You would treat someone with cancer or leukemia, wouldn’t you? Mental illness is the same thing,” she said.

“He wasn’t a piece of garbage. He should have been treated better. I’m making it a mission of mine to bring attention to the mental health system we have in our state,” she said.

Southern Mississippi Funeral Services is handling arrangements. Services are 9-11:30 a.m. Oct. 8 at the St. Martin Community Center.

Justin Vicory: 228-896-2326, @justinvicory