Police release 911 call in officer-involved shooting at homeless shelter

Baltimore Police released on Wednesday the 911 call that precipitated a police-involved shooting last week near the city homeless shelter, confirming that officers arriving on scene were responding to a report of a robbery.

In the call, James Hinkle, tells a dispatcher that someone just tried to rob him with a gun at the Code Blue shelter in the 600 block of The Fallsway, and that the person was still in the area. 

"I was just attempted to be robbed some young man," Hinkle says. "He's sitting right outside the building."

Hinkle, 30, who stayed at the shelter, said in an interview Wednesday that the man had been giving him problems in recent weeks and that shelter security intervened Friday when the man approached him. He said he heard police fire the shots and saw the man fall to the ground.

Afterward, Hinkle said others at the shelter blamed him for the shooting and threatened him, at one point throwing hot chocolate on him. He scraped together bus fare and has since left town.

In a statement, Christine Kay, associate administrator of Catholic Charities Community Services, which runs the shelter, said the man who was shot "is not a resident of the [Weinberg Housing and Resource Center] and had been banned previously and is not permitted on the premises."

Police said at the scene Friday that officers were called for a report of a robbery at the shelter, and encountered a man matching the description of the suspect and who refused to drop a weapon. He was shot multiple times but survived. His name has not been released pending criminal charges.

Some have questioned the police account, and witnesses gathered around the shelter in the moments after the shooting said they did not believe police needed to open fire.

Hinkle, in the 911 call, described the suspect's weapon first as a gun, then says it is a "BB gun." He said Wednesday that he couldn't be sure either way because he only saw it for a moment.

Police have since confirmed that the weapon recovered was a pellet gun that had the appearance of a handgun.

Lt. Eric Kowalczyk, a police spokesman, said officers are trained to spot different kinds of weapons. But he said some replica guns can appear to be handguns. 

"Unless you physically examine it, you have no way to know if it's a handgun or a pellet gun," Kowalczyk said. "To the officers responding, they saw what they believed to be a handgun."

Security staff is supposed to search people who enter the shelter property. Asked whether the man who was shot was searched, Kay, of Catholic Charities, said "staff ensured that he left the property. Because the individual was not entering the property, he was not subject to a search."

The officers involved in the incident are on routine suspension as homicide detectives investigate the shooting.

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