Baltimore County police fatally shoot suspected bank robber, take alleged accomplice into custody

Man shot by Baltimore County police officer.

Baltimore County police shot and killed a suspected bank robber at an intersection near several suburban subdivisions on Friday afternoon and took into custody an alleged accomplice wanted in a string of bank robberies this month.

Police said the men were fleeing the robbery of a Wells Fargo Bank in the 1500 block of Reisterstown Road. An officer fired through the windshield of their getaway car, killing the driver. The car then crashed into other vehicles stopped on Ruxton Road near Falls Road in Brooklandville, police said. No other drivers were injured.

Police had shut down traffic in the area following the bank robbery, which occurred just after 1 p.m., in hopes of blocking a likely escape route.

The suspects, driving a Ford Taurus eastbound on Old Court Road, "pulled out of the line of stopped traffic, crossed the center line and drove toward one of the officers," police said.

According to department policy, officers may discharge their firearm "when an officer is on foot and a vehicle is being used against the officer, or another person, and the safety of innocent persons would not be jeopardized."

Police did not identify the man who was shot. He died after being taken to an area hospital, police said. The second man suffered injuries that were not considered life-threatening, police said.

Police said the man in custody, who has not been identified, is the suspect dubbed "The Aviator" this week by the FBI. The suspect's nickname comes from the style of sunglasses worn in three other area bank robberies.

Police recovered "money and bank property" from the vehicle, police said. They did not recover any weapons.

The officer who fired his weapon has been placed on routine administrative status pending a review of the shooting. His last name — but not his first name — will be released within 48 hours, in accordance with the county's contract with the police union.

Cpl. John Wachter, a police spokesman, said one officer on the scene was wearing a body camera. The officer wearing the camera was not the officer who fired, and the footage did not capture the shooting, police said.

A limited number of Baltimore County police officers were issued body cameras beginning this summer. All officers are expected to be issued cameras by December 2018.

The FBI had offered a $5,000 reward Thursday for any information leading to the arrest of the suspect known as "The Aviator."

The agency said he was responsible for robberies on Sept. 1 at the Wells Fargo Bank in the 1600 block of Merritt Blvd. in Dundalk; on Sept. 9 at the BB&T Bank in the 5400 block of Harford Road in Hamilton; and on Tuesday at the Wells Fargo Bank in the 7600 block of Harford Road in Parkville.

The FBI referred all questions to Baltimore County police.

The incident Friday occurred at the intersection of Falls Road, Ruxton Road and Old Court Road, in an old mill town historically known as Rockland. The area is considered Brooklandville, just west of Ruxton and Towson and north of Baltimore. It is roughly four miles from the Wells Fargo Bank that police say was robbed.

Dan Fesperman, a former reporter for The Baltimore Sun, said he was headed west on Ruxton Road and preparing to turn left onto Falls Road when he noticed police cars ahead of him and one officer standing on the street, shouting. Suddenly, four or five shots were fired, he said — though he was unsure where they came from.

"It was a pop, pop, pop, pop," he said.

At that point, a pale green Ford Taurus appeared, headed eastbound on Old Court Road directly across Falls Road. The vehicle briefly accelerated, then slowed and appeared to coast across the intersection, slamming at about 20 mph into a Subaru station wagon stopped to the right of Fesperman's car, he said.

"All the cops came running across the road," Fesperman said. He said they were yelling at a man in the passenger seat of the Taurus. Fesperman said he couldn't see anyone in the driver's seat.

The police officers "took billy clubs and they smashed the passenger side window," Fesperman said. They opened the car door and pulled the man out, putting him on his stomach on the ground, Fesperman said.

Once Fesperman got out of his own vehicle, he saw police officers giving first aid to another man. "I saw that they were tending to a guy on that side, giving him CPR. There was a lot of blood," Fesperman said.

Doe Kim said his Misty Valley Farms stand on Ruxton Road just beyond the scene of the shooting was busy when gunfire erupted. He and several customers rushed to the roadside and saw four or five people huddled behind a vehicle, and other vehicles making abrupt U-turns.

Police were already there when Kim heard the shots, and a dozen other squad cars with sirens blaring soon came racing by.

"It seemed like it was maybe some ongoing event and maybe it got out of hand," Kim said. "I heard four or five gunshots."

The incident follows two other recent deaths of people engaged in some way with county police.

A 21-year-old man died Wednesday after he was injured during a confrontation with police Sunday morning in Essex. Police say Tawon Boyd had resisted arrest, and three officers who restrained him were injured in the fray.

Officials are awaiting the results of an autopsy, but Boyd's family said his kidneys and heart failed. They questioned the police officers' handling of the situation.

Both the county police and fire departments are conducting internal investigations.

The county Police Department also has been criticized in recent weeks for the shooting death of Korryn Gaines, 23. She was shot by a police officer in her Randallstown apartment last month. Police said Gaines raised and pointed a shotgun at officers. The officer who shot her, identified only as Officer 1st Class Ruby, also struck Gaines' 5-year-old son, Kodi.

Baltimore County State's Attorney Scott Shellenberger announced Wednesday that he would not bring any charges against the officer.

Gaines' family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit, and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund has asked County Executive Kevin Kamenetz to launch an independent review.

Baltimore County police have also been involved in two nonfatal shootings this year.

Travis Jay Hunt was shot by police at a home in Middle River on May 14 as officers investigated whether he was responsible for attacking a man and a woman with a hatchet. Hunt dropped a knife and lunged toward it, and an officer shot him, police said.

George Greenwood Willinger III was shot during a traffic stop in Middle River on Feb. 18 when police said he made a move toward his waistband. Willinger did not have a gun on him, but police found a gun in the back seat of the car.

Baltimore Sun reporter Pamela Wood contributed to this article.

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