Police officer shot in training exercise at former hospital site
A University of Maryland police officer was critically injured when accidentally shot in the head during a training exercise on Tuesday. He was transported to Shock Trauma for treatment. (Kenneth K. Lam/Baltimore Sun video)
The officer was hit around 2:30 p.m. at the Rosewood Center, a closed state psychiatric hospital in Owings Mills. State police said it was reported as an accident but officials released few details — including why live rounds were being used in a training environment — citing an ongoing investigation.
“It’s going to take time to get answers to those questions because, for me, it’s unacceptable,” Batts said. “We’re going to take the time to dig to make this better so we don’t have this happen again.”
Batts said he had suspended all police academy operations and training programs pending a safety review. He said he would have his agency’s internal affairs unit as well as the Maryland Police and Correctional Training Commission conduct reviews in addition to the state police probe.
The officer was not identified at the request of his family, but Chief Antonio Williams of the University of Maryland, Baltimore police force said he was in his 40s and had been hired in July. It was his first police job, Williams said.
Officers from smaller agencies commonly take part in training with larger police forces to conserve resources.
Thomas Scalea, the physician in chief at Shock Trauma, said the officer was in stable condition at 9 p.m. “But any thoughts or predictions about ... neurological outcomes are way, way premature,” he said.
A second officer, a member of the city force, suffered minor injuries from broken glass related to the shooting, said Baltimore police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi.
City Councilman Brandon M. Scott, vice chairman of the public safety committee, said he would call on police officials to explain the incident. Scott said he was dismayed to see another officer wounded in the wake of the deadly friendly fire shooting of Officer William H. Torbit Jr. outside the Select Lounge nightclub in 2011.
“It’s an unspeakable tragedy, but there are a lot of questions that need to answered,” he said of Tuesday’s shooting. “I will do everything in my power that we find out what happened and that something like this never happens again.”
State police are leading the investigation because it took place in a state facility, owned by the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.
Robert F. Cherry, the police union president, was at the hospital but referred questions to a union attorney, Michael Davey, who said the shooting was a “tragedy for the department and everyone involved. The Police Department will do a very thorough investigation.” They declined to identify the training instructor, who police said is suspended pending the review of the incident.
Retired Lt. Col. Michael Andrew, who oversaw the city’s SWAT teams, said live ammunition is rarely used in any training scenario. Most guns used in training are distinguished by red handles and have no magazines or firing pins. In classroom settings, he said, “They won’t even let you in the building with a loaded weapon.”
Andrew said his SWAT teams trained weekly in a former city maintenance shop.
“They weren’t using live ammunition,” he said. “They would painstakingly make sure everything was unloaded and simulate live ammunition.”
Police would not offer any details about Tuesday’s training exercise, saying that information was part of their investigation. In recent years, police have described using “active shooter” training exercises in which officers use so-called “simunition” bullets similar to paintballs.
Simunitions are fired from a standard handgun and explode on impact. They allow officers to practice in realistic situations, often in abandoned buildings.
The former Rosewood Center dates to 1888 and once housed as many as 3,000 patients with developmental disabilities. Its population dwindled to 166 residents by 2010, when Gov. Martin O’Malley ordered its closure. Most of the remaining residents were relocated to group homes.