BPD plays body-worn camera footage of shooting at UMd. behavioral clinic

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Interim Baltimore Police Commissioner Gary Tuggle, right, and chief spokesman T.J. Smith address the media. Photo by Brandon Weigel.

Following an incident where two police officers shot and wounded a 27-year-old man at a University of Maryland Medical System behavioral clinic on Thursday, police today played body-worn camera footage of the shooting to reporters, showing a tense 10-minute exchange between officers and the man before he charged at police with a knife and waiting room chair.

The video is not being released publicly because it reveals private medical information about the man, who is not being criminally charged and whose name is not being released.

In the footage, as three officers enter the building at 710 W. Pratt St., one of them can be heard saying, “It’s a mental health facility, so we always get calls down here for stuff like this.”

A woman wearing a name tag with “DOCTOR” on it meets the officers in the elevator and explains the situation and man’s medical condition as they ride up. This part was muted for the press.

Police enter the room, where a security guard is trying to talk down the man, standing alone in the waiting room and holding a knife.

Officers then try talking the man down. He responds, “I ain’t talking to you all,” and, “I don’t wanna talk.”

At one point, the man yells at officers and accuses them of advancing.

“Nobody’s going ahead, nobody’s doing anything,” one of the officers tells him.

He then challenges police to fire.

“Go ahead and shoot me, yo!”

Either one of the officers or the security guard pleads with the man to stop. The man addresses one of the officers brandishing a Taser.

“Nobody wants to Tase anyone,” one of the officers tells him.

“I had a rough life, yo,” the man says. He soon grows agitated that two of the officers have their guns drawn. “What have you got the gun out for?!”

“It’s only for safety,” one of the officers tells him.

“Put the gun down, yo.”

One of the officers pleads, “Let us help you, let us help you.”

“I don’t want your help,” the man responds.

At one point the man hurls a chair and exclaims, “Yeah, I’m strong as shit.”

He then challenges officers, “Let’s do this, yo.”

“There’s no reason for this,” one of the officers says. “Let’s not do this.”

The man again challenges police to fire at him.

“Do it! Do it!” he shouts. “Shoot me, yo. Go ahead and shoot me, yo.”

He stepps forward and officers shout, “Drop the knife!”

“I ain’t doing shit,” the man says. He hopped forward and then moved back toward a corner.

He challenges them again, and later directs his attention to a female officer. “She’s threatening me, yo.”

“Nobody’s threatening you,” one of the officers says.

They again tell him to drop the knife.

“Let us help you,” one of the officers implores.

“No, I don’t want any help, yo,” the man says.

The man then asks, “You gonna shoot my head off?” He says the situation was funny.

“Nobody is laughing,” one of the officers says.

The man again tells officers to shoot him.

“No! Drop the knife.”

Using a chair as a shield, the man walks to the center of the waiting room with the knife still in his hand and then hurls the chair at the wall. He picks up another.

One of the officers can be heard saying he would not be getting his Taser out because he was too close.

The man then charges with the knife in his hand and the chair over his head. Two officers fire their guns and another fires their Taser.

After the video finished, Interim Commissioner Gary Tuggle told reporters police received  the call for and armed person during what appeared to be a “behavioral crisis moment.”

“This individual was in the throes of violence, extremely agitated,” Tuggle said.

He praised the officers for their attempts to talk the man down and for their restraint as the man appeared to move toward them. The officers who shot their guns were identified as Epifano Torres Jr. and Tankeisha Cokley, both assigned to the Central District.

“They did everything they could to de-escalate the situation,” he said. “The video speaks for itself.”

The man visits the clinic a couple times a week and showed up with the knife, but it’s not clear if he was there for a scheduled appointment or not, Tuggle said.

“He was clearly disturbed before we got there,” he said.

Chief spokesman T.J. Smith said the man was shot in the upper body and the leg, and was still listed in stable condition. He’s expected to recover.

Three shots were fired, including the one from the Taser–they all happened “at or about the same time,” Tuggle said. When asked why the Taser wasn’t used first, Tuggle pointed to the point where one officer said he was too close and to the danger of the situation.

“At the end of the day, if we could have used a Taser and dispatched the situation, that would have been the preference,” he said. “However, as you can see, this individual, who was clearly in the throes of a behavioral health crisis, was dangerous–he had a knife in his hand, he had made a number of moves toward officers. And again, the level of restraint they used, as you can see, was really remarkable.”

Tuggle also lauded the officers on the scene for declining to bring more police into the room, possibly escalating the situation further, and for calling a medic as a precaution.

“It was very prudent of the officer to say, Just start rolling a medic this way, just in case,” he said. “Unfortunately, it went to a level that we didn’t want it to go to.”

Tuggle was then asked if officers ever shot with the intention of weakening an assailant.

“No, to be very candid with you,” he said, “we shoot to stop the threat.”

Brandon Weigel

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