A Baltimore police officer who pulled up to a convenience store as the clerk was being robbed at gunpoint early Monday morning fatally shot the 20-year-old suspect as he ran out of the store with a shotgun in hand, according to police and video footage of the incident they released.
Police Commissioner Kevin Davis praised the officer for his bravery.
The shooting occurred just before 3 a.m. at a 7-Eleven on the corner of Harford Road and Glenmore Avenue in the city’s Westfield neighborhood, near Hamilton.
In footage from store surveillance cameras and the officer’s body camera, the 20-year-old man can be seen pointing a shotgun at the clerk, grabbing a bag of money from the register — a total of $26 — and then running out of the store just after the officer, a 17-year veteran of the force, had pulled up out front.
The officer, leaving his vehicle, quickly fired at and struck the man, who collapsed to the sidewalk outside the store as the officer called for backup and a medic.
Neither the officer nor several witnesses at the store were injured, police said.
Police did not identify the officer or the man killed Monday, though officials said both will be identified in coming days. Police have a policy of identifying officers involved in shootings within two days. Police spokesman T.J. Smith said they will identify the man who was killed as soon as his family is notified of his death.
Davis said that, based on his review of the footage, the officer did “a great, great job.”
He said the officer showed “presence of mind and grace under pressure,” including by immediately activating his body camera after the shooting occurred. Doing so automatically saved a 30-second loop of footage from before the activation, which captured the shooting, Davis said
In the footage, the man appears to be running out of the store with the gun mostly at his side, pointed toward the ground, though police suggested it had been directed toward the officer. Smith said the officer had just watched the man rob the store while pointing the gun directly at the clerk, and “could have been blasted at basically point-blank range with a shotgun” himself if he had hesitated in shooting the man first as he did.
“These are the split-second decisions that officers are forced to deal with,” Smith said.
The shotgun, which was not loaded, appeared to be the same weapon — with white tape covering its handle — that has been used in several other robberies, Smith said. Police believe that the man who was killed may be responsible, with several accomplices, for as many as 30 robberies in Baltimore over the course of this past summer. Smith did not elaborate on that claim.
The shooting will be reviewed by the office of Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby, like all police shootings.
It marked the fourth shooting — and the third fatal shooting — of an individual by a Baltimore police officer this year, according to a count by The Baltimore Sun. That marks a decline from the pace of police shootings in Baltimore in past years.
There have been between nine and 15 police shootings each year since 2010, according to Baltimore Sun data. There were 11 last year, four of them fatal.
Much higher numbers of police shootings have occurred in years past. There were 22 in 2009, 21 in 2008, and 33 in 2007, according to Sun data.
Davis attributed the drop in police shootings to a range of causes, including strengthened use-of-force policies and improved de-escalation training for officers. He said it was not due to officers being “afraid to be the police” in the current atmosphere of enhanced scrutiny of law enforcement.
The changes are part of broader police reforms being carried out by the department to comply with a consent decree with the U.S. Justice Department.
Another tenet of that agreement is transparency, which police have said they are complying with in part by being forthcoming with the public when it comes to incidents like this shooting and the footage collected of them.
Police have either released body-camera footage or showed it to reporters in every shooting this year. They’ve also said each of the shootings was justified.
In February, 18-year-old Curtis Deal was shot fatally by Det. David Kincaid Jr. after jumping out of a vehicle and then pulling a gun out on Kincaid amid a foot chase in the Boyd-Booth neighborhood, near the city’s Tri-District area, according to police and body-camera footage. Mosby’s office declined to bring any charges in the case.
In March, 39-year-old Reno Owens Jr. was shot fatally by SWAT Officer Zachary Wein after a standoff in a family member’s home in West Baltimore’s Sandtown-Winchester. Owens was holding two small children in his lap and threatening their lives with a large knife at the time of the shooting, according to police and body-camera footage. Mosby’s office still is reviewing the case.
The body-camera footage in that case was not released publicly, but was shown to reporters.
In June, a 23-year-old man who has yet to be identified publicly by police was shot and wounded after Officers Rico Perry and Courtney Wright opened fire during a foot pursuit in Curtis Bay in South Baltimore. The man had pulled a gun and turned it toward officers during the chase, according to police and body-camera footage. Mosby’s office still is reviewing that case, too.
City police officers have fired their guns without striking anyone in at least two additional incidents this year, both in June. Police also released body-camera footage in those incidents.
In one incident, Officer Jamaal Johnson fired a shot into a refrigerator after confronting two armed robbery suspects inside a liquor store near the intersection of Harford and Moravia roads. No one was struck.
In the second incident, Officer Rene Aguilera opened fire on a vehicle that was put into reverse and headed in his direction in the 700 block of Wildwood Parkway in Edmondson Village on June 17. No one was struck.
Also this year, agents with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives shot a man in Baltimore. Police said Dante Smith, 32, was shot by agents after he and two accomplices attempted to rob undercover agents during a “controlled purchase” of heroin in Brooklyn in South Baltimore in May.
The ATF agents involved have not been identified. Court records identify them only by their badge numbers. Smith’s family has challenged the ATF on its version of what happened.