A Baltimore police officer who shot a 48-year-0ld man behaving erratically in Waverly on Black Friday of 2016 won’t be charged with any crime, according to a new report from prosecutors.
The reason, they say, is that officers’ and the community’s safety were at risk that day.
“Given the circumstances and the need to protect both the community and the officers, the force used by the officer did not rise to a level of criminal culpability,” prosecutors wrote. “Therefore, the State declines to prosecute the officer.”
The morning after Thanksgiving of 2016, authorities said a man was waving a pair of knives around at people waiting at a nearby bus stop in the 3300 block of Greenmount Avenue. (This account was substantiated in publicly released body camera footage of the incident.) When officers responded to the scene, the alleged knife-waver wasn’t cooperative, ignoring orders from gun-wielding officers to put down the knives in his hands.
As shown in the graphic body cam video, one officer fired his taser, but it didn’t work. Within seconds, two other officers used their firearms, discharging two shots. The man still appeared unfazed and wandered down the sidewalk. After giving one more command to drop the knives, officers fired five more shots. The man collapsed.
According to the newly released report from the State’s Attorney Office of Baltimore City, the man was hit twice, with three wounds to show for it. (One of the shots went through his front and out of his buttocks).
The report contains photos of the scene, and runs through testimony from three of the five responding officers and six civilian witnesses, as well as a factual account based on body-worn camera footage from two officers.
According to prosecutors’ analysis, the officer who fired his gun thought the man was coming close to stabbing his colleague. He determined this after the man had refused to drop the knives, even after police fired warning shots.
(Police identified the two officers who opened fire as Officers Gary Brown and Supreme Jones; the report doesn’t identify which one struck the man.)
A breakdown of the witness accounts mostly sides with the officers. One civilian who was at a station across the street said, “Police didn’t want to shoot him, but he was still there with the knives and the people around.”
“I do not believe the officers had a choice,” said another witness. “It was like he was suicidal. The police weren’t wrong.”
There were some who took exception. “The man walked pass my car several times talking aloud. He wasn’t bothering anyone,” said civilian witness number 3.
Another claimed police lied about using a taser. To quell this doubt, prosecutors included photos of the deployed device in their report.
The cop who fired his taser said he was “scared” after the device didn’t work, and another one there for support said the man seemed “surprised” when the taser didn’t have any effect and then moved toward an officer.
In the end, the SAO deemed the resulting shooting justifiable because their “suspect” was armed, didn’t respond to deployment of a taser or gunshots, continued to approach officers while holding the knives and ignored their requests to drop them.
The report from prosectors was one of three shared on the SAO website. The department announced last Month that it would begin sharing reports about decisions not to charge officers in cases involving use-of-force as part of an effort to increase transparency.
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