Timothy Green’s Parents Struggle to Make Sense of Why Olympia Police Killed Their Son

Millie and Oscar Green, parents of Timothy Green who was killed during a mental health episode by Olympia Police officers.

Millie and Oscar Green last spoke with their son Timothy around 8 p.m. the day before his death.

“I asked him, ‘are you safe?’ He said, ‘I am about as safe as I am going to be,’ ”recounts Millie, who spoke with Timothy on Sunday, August 21, assuring him that on the following day, Monday, the family would renew its efforts to find a place for him in a mental health facility. 

But by mid-morning Monday, August 22, Timothy, a 37-year-old Black man in crisis, was dead, shot three times in the chest by an Olympia Police Department officer during an incident that’s still under investigation.

“All the beds were full,” Millie said of their fruitless efforts to find assistance for Timothy, who on Saturday had been asked to leave the family home. “He was off his meds, throwing things and yelling…I couldn’t understand anything he was saying,” Millie said. At one point, he barricaded the front door and made threats, and the family called the police. When they arrived, Timothy left. 

It was the last time his parents saw him alive.

When he called his parents later on Sunday, he told Millie he loved her. He also seemed uncertain about the offer of assistance.

Millie described the call, “He said, ‘Mom, I love you, but I don’t know about it.’ (efforts to find him help).

‘Mom, I hurt all over … kid,’ 

he always called me kid,

I love you.’”

It was the last conversation Millie would have with her son.

About Timothy

While the investigation into the shooting continues and calls for police and accountability bounce around Olympia City Hall, on social media, and in police reform circles, Millie and Oscar recently met with a reporter for The Olympia Tribune to talk about their son – his wide grin, his room-filling laugh, his abundant generosity and compassion, and his voracious appetite.

“He loved, loved, loved to eat,” and his favorites were burritos and ribs, Millie said. But Oscar chimed in with an emphatic NO when asked if Timothy was a good cook. They relate that once, as a favor to them, he tried to cook dinner. “Whatever was in that pot was unidentifiable.”

While he may have lacked talent in the cooking arena, Timothy was remarkable in other ways. “He was funny, and he loved people,” Millie said. “He was very sensitive to people and their situations. One of his biggest desires was to help homeless people,” which he frequently did by emptying the Green’s pantry of supplies such as toilet paper and food, stuffing them in his backpack, and taking them out to places where homeless people live, Oscar said. “He would even give people money, even if he had to borrow it from me,” Millie said. “That’s the kind of person he was.”

Timothy’s three sisters and three brothers are hurting, Millie said. His brother Troy had posted on a social media site: “When you lost a sibling, how do you make meaning of the loss and move on?” At a recent gathering for him, some of his siblings spoke of his struggles. Timothy also has two children, 17 and 10 years old, who live in Yakima. His death has “been really hard on the older one,” Millie said.

Timothy was in and out of prison for five years for violating protection orders, Millie and Oscar said. When he was released in March 2021, he moved in with them. “We wanted to help him. He had a year of probation, and we got him set up with housing and the SSDI programs… toward the end of July (of 2021), we told him, ‘you’ve got to get going again,’” Oscar said. 

Oscar and Millie are straightforward about how Timothy’s mental health issues made his life difficult at times and said in a statement shortly after his death that they had come to dread that he “would meet this very outcome … We know that people who have mental health issues are at a higher risk of being killed by police and this is even more so for Black men like Tim.  We have lived with the fear and a deep understanding of the vulnerability of Tim and others like Tim.”

This spring, both Greens noticed a marked change in his behavior. “It was almost like he was on something … he always struggled with his meds … he liked the manic versus the depressive” phase of his bipolar disorder, Oscar said, leading to Timothy declining to regularly take the medicine that might have helped him.

The National Institute of Mental Health describes bipolar disorder as one “that causes unusual shifts in mood, energy, activity levels, concentration, and the ability to carry out day-to-day tasks… and moods that range from periods of extremely “up,” elated, irritable, or energized behavior (known as manic episodes) to very “down,” sad, indifferent, or hopeless periods (known as depressive episodes).”

Oscar recounted an episode a few months ago when Timothy called him asking for help. “I found him, not far from here, sitting on a curb. He said, ‘Dad, I’m not feeling too good … my heart is hurting, and I am mentally exhausted’ … and then we worried even more about him.” He took Timothy home, and when the Greens talked to him about whether he was taking any drugs besides his prescriptions, he told them no.

A family’s faith

Timothy deeply believed in God, Millie said, and attended the Church of the Living Water, where he would come to the front of the church and ask the pastor to pray over him. In his social media posts, Timothy sometimes spoke of his trust in God and love for Jesus: “I’ve got a friend that will never leave me. His name is Jesus, so I’m blessed, happy, joyful, never in need, all ways have someone who’s very important in this world, and universe, on my side, who you got?”

“I always made sure that God was the center of our family,” Millie said. “I always told them God is the one that never leaves us … you need to stay close to Jesus because you don’t know the hour or the day when he’s going to call you home.”

Questions about police actions

Two weeks ago, Millie met with Olympia Mayor Cheryl Selby, Council Members Clark Gilman and  Dontae Payne, and Olympia Police Chief Rich Allen. She says, “it went well,” but she still questions why police didn’t attempt to de-escalate the situation or call in “less-lethal backup” before firing the shots that killed him, as required by state law.

The law also requires police to consider a person’s mental, behavioral, or physical impairments or disabilities; and perceptual or cognitive impairments typically related to the use of alcohol, narcotics, hallucinogens, or other drugs when determining whether to use force and if force is necessary, determining the appropriate and least amount of force needed. 

Some question whether the police did that, given that they had been to the family home when Timothy was in crisis the Saturday before the shooting. 

More than 40 days after the shooting, a small memorial in Timothy’s honor still rests at the place near the intersection of Sleater Kinney Road and Martin Way in Olympia, where it occurred. It is tended by family and friends who place photographs and artist renderings of a grinning, brightly dressed Timothy there, along with fresh flowers they’ve harvested from home gardens.   

It’s where Millie and Oscar chose to do the interview with The Tribune, and toward the end of the conversation, Millie unfolds a black T-shirt bearing Timothy’s likeness and begins to pull it over her head, saying: “In the amount of time it takes me to put this shirt on is the amount of time it would have taken the cops to do the right thing and call for help.”

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By Mindy Chambers

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