Before dawn last Aug. 28, Tonya Smith said, she heard two shots and pulled her 13-year-old daughter under the bed. Then came the sound of tactical officers pounding up the stairs.
Baltimore County police were looking for Smith's teenage son, Rasheed Stanford, in connection with a nearby shooting, but he wasn't there. Another boy in the house attempted to flee, sparking a chaotic scene that ended in the shooting deaths both Smith's nephew and a veteran officer.
Stanford, now 17, was in court Wednesday on charges from the earlier shooting, and his mother spoke afterward — providing the first detailed account from someone inside the house of the fateful raid.
Smith said her son, who sought unsuccessfully to move his case to juvenile court, is being unfairly held responsible for the death of Officer Jason Schneider, a 13-year veteran. Schneider and a second officer returned fire, killing the shooter, Smith's nephew, 25-year-old Tevon Smith.
Stanford's mother also criticized the surprise raid, saying if officers had knocked, she would have told them Stanford wasn't home.
"It's bad two people had to lose their lives. It could've been prevented," Smith said. She questioned why police used a no-knock warrant, arguing that her then-16-year-old son did not pose a threat to officers.
Critics say such deployments can be overused, resulting in danger for officers and the people inside targeted homes, but police officials say such tactics are necessary when dealing with potentially armed and dangerous suspects.
Police were seeking Stanford on a warrant accusing him of shooting a 29-year-old man in the neck outside a Winters Lane bar on Aug. 19.
In court documents, police said members of the tactical unit made it clear that they were police officers. They also said Schneider held a ballistic shield with the word "police" written across its front.
"The goal with any tactical situation is to minimize risk to personnel and civilians and to avoid destruction of vital evidence," Baltimore County police spokeswoman Elise Armacost said in an email. "Each incident presents the unit with different challenges regarding terrain, physical structures, number of suspects, weapons and the presence of bystanders or hostages. There is no one-size-fits-all approach."
Mark Lomax, executive director of the National Tactical Officers Association. said police have to determine their approach based on what they know: Is the suspect at home? Does he or she have a gun? Is he or she likely to use it?
"It's kind of like doing surgery; every situation is different," Lomax said.
Armacost said the homicide investigation is continuing, as well as the investigation into where the guns came from and whether they were obtained legally.
Stanford's defense attorney, David E. Williams, argued Wednesday that his client is amenable to treatment and would benefit from rehabilitative services offered to juvenile offenders.
However, prosecutors said there would be few programs available to him because he faces gun-related charges.
Judge Robert E. Cahill Jr. ruled that the case should stay in adult court, a decision he said was "not even close."
Williams has consistently pointed out that Stanford was not home during the raid, urging the court to consider his case independently.
At his client's bail review hearing, Williams fought against prosecutors playing a portion of Stanford's recorded interview with detectives where he disparaged the slain officer, telling detectives, "[Expletive] him and his family."
Williams said Stanford had expressed concern and remorse during other portions of the interview, and pointed out that Stanford was also mourning a relative.
Smith said Wednesday that "this case should just be on the facts of the case," referring to the nonfatal shooting.
She said she was unaware that police had been searching for her son. He had been staying with his father in Baltimore to be closer to a GED work program, Smith said.
Police said six people were in the house when officers entered shortly after 5 a.m., including 17-year-old Taquan Barney, who allegedly tussled with Schneider while trying to escape.
Smith said she, her teenage daughter and her sister — who is Tevon Smith's mother — were asleep upstairs when officers burst in. Tevon Smith, Taquan Barney and another nephew were asleep downstairs.
Court documents said Barney fled from the living room into the kitchen, where Schneider forced him to the ground with his ballistic shield. Police recovered a Taurus PT22 .22-caliber handgun in his left front pants pocket. He was charged with illegally possessing a handgun and is scheduled to appear in court Thursday to appeal a denial to move his case to juvenile court.
Stanford's trial is scheduled for May.
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