An 18-year-old man who jumped out of a vehicle being tailed by police in West Baltimore on Tuesday afternoon was fatally shot by an officer after allegedly holding a handgun during a foot pursuit, Baltimore police said.
Police said the officer shot him after fearing for his own life.
The incident occurred about 3 p.m. on Frederick Avenue just west of South Monroe Street, in an area of the city where three police districts converge.
Two plainclothes officers with the department's operational intelligence division were in the high-crime area as part of a focused enforcement effort. They began tailing the vehicle the suspect jumped out of because it was being driven erratically, police said.
One of the doors was repeatedly opened while the vehicle was in motion, "indicating a possible bailout" — which then occurred, said T.J. Smith, a police spokesman.
During the foot pursuit, the suspect fled through an alley connecting Hollins Street and Frederick Avenue, police said. The alley is parallel to Monroe Street, where the officer who gave chase was running. As the officer rounded the corner from Monroe Street onto Frederick Avenue, he and the suspect "basically came face to face," Smith said.
The unidentified officer, who was wearing a vest marked "POLICE," fired at least twice after seeing the suspect's weapon, Smith said.
The shooting was captured on the officer's body camera and is under review by detectives with the department's Special Investigation Response Team, which handles all police shootings, Smith said.
The suspect, who did not fire his gun, was taken to the nearby Maryland Shock Trauma Center, where he was pronounced dead, Smith said. The officer was not injured. Several others in the vehicle with the suspect were able to flee the area and have not been identified.
Dora Hunter, 81, who has lived in her home near the intersection for 45 years, said she heard what sounded like four or five shots.
"'Lord, who got shot now?'" she recalled saying to herself. "People done forgot how to love."
The shooting marked the first involving police in the city this year, and the first since the department signed a sweeping consent decree with the U.S. Department of Justice that, if approved in court, would usher in a wave of reforms — including restrictions on police pursuits.
Smith said the officer involved in the shooting was doing what the department and city residents expect of police, and that his actions were based on "reasonable enough suspicion" and in line with the consent decree.
"We're tired of this. We have banner headlines of 40 homicides. How do you expect us to solve the problem of 40 homicides?" said Smith, referring to the fact that there have been 40 killings in the city since the start of the year — a pace of more than one killing a day. "We have to get the guys who are committing these crimes."
Smith said it is the suspect's actions that should be questioned.
The teen has been arrested three times in the past month on drug and gun charges, Smith said. He had just been released from jail Monday on bail for felony gun and drug possession charges, and was back on the street with another gun, Smith said.
"That's really despicable, because it's putting our officers and our citizens in harm's way seeing these people continuously possess these firearms and walk these streets and want to inflict harm on people," Smith said.
The suspect was not identified, pending notification of his family of his death. Without his name, the circumstances of his previous arrests could not be determined.
The office of Baltimore State's Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby said in a statement that prosecutors had recommended the suspect be held without bail after his latest offense, but that "it is the court that ultimately determines the bail."
The officer, who will be identified in the coming days, per department policy, has been placed on routine administrative duties, Smith said.
The shooting shut down South Monroe Street and Frederick Avenue for several blocks in both directions for hours.
Many residents in the neighborhood gathered around the scene after the shooting occurred to criticize the police — particularly the plainclothes officers called "knockers" who do street enforcement in the area.
"If their job is to protect and serve, it could have been done a different way," said Travis Raye, 27. "It's like we're all going to end up dead. ... We don't feel safe in our neighborhood."
Tavon Cooper, 34, said the suspect was fleeing and did not pose a threat to the officers, and questioned why they chose to chase him.
Roy Daley, 30, said he witnessed part of the chase, and said the officers were the ones acting erratically — including driving the wrong way on Monroe Street and whipping their marked vehicle through an alley.
Daley said the officer chasing the suspect "didn't say stop, didn't say freeze." Then, he said, he heard several shots.
"I mean, I was in shock, for real. Like, I just stood there. I seen people drop to the ground, but, like, I was just in shock, for real. I couldn't believe that just happened," Daley said. "I hit the corner, and I seen little homie right there in the middle of the street."