Baltimore County police shooting in Parkville area ruled justified

Baltimore County prosecutors have ruled that a police officer was justified in shooting a man in the Parkville area in April, citing evidence including body camera footage.

In a letter Tuesday to the Police Department, Deputy State's Attorney Robin Coffin wrote that the officer acted "for his own safety."

The officer, who shot 27-year-old Brandon Smith on April 12, has been identified only by his last name, in keeping with an agreement between the county and the police union.

"Officer Downs clearly identified himself as a Police Officer and demanded that Smith not move and keep his hands visible," Coffin wrote in the letter, adding that Smith was "clearly going for his handgun."

Smith was wounded but survived the shooting. An attorney for him could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Downs encountered Smith after being dispatched for a report of someone breaking into cars near Hillendale and Northview roads. Police said at the time that the suspect — later identified as Smith — had reached toward a gun in his waistband. A handgun was recovered by police at the scene.

The officer's body camera captured the shooting. County State's Attorney Scott Shellenberger said he won't publicly release the footage because Smith faces charges including theft and gun violations, and he believes broadcasting the video could taint the jury pool. However, he said his office's policy allows media outlets to review the footage upon request.

In the video, reviewed Thursday by The Sun, Smith is seen standing near a pickup truck, his hands up.

"Keep your hands up," Downs says in the video. "Keep your hands up, boy."

Smith then turns as he bends down toward the ground.

"Drop the gun!" Downs says before shooting.

In the video, an object that appears to be a gun is visible on the ground near Smith.

Downs, who was hired in 2013, has returned to duty, a police spokeswoman said.

The Police Department launched its $12.5 million body camera program last July. It has gradually given the devices to officers and plans to have body cameras on 1,435 officers by the end of September.

The county's decision not to publicly release camera footage of police shootings has been criticized by groups including the ACLU of Maryland.

alisonk@baltsun.com

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