A man was shot to death by police after barricading himself and a hostage inside a house in Havre de Grace Saturday afternoon, the Harford County Sheriff's Office said. The hostage was released unharmed prior to the fatal shooting.
The victim has been identified as Austin Francis Jones, 34 of Havre de Grace. Jones was pronounced dead at the scene, an apartment inside a house in the 700 block of Erie Street, according to police.
Jones was shot by a member of the Sheriff's Office's Special Response Team after he barricaded himself in a room with and "pointed an object at officers" while they were negotiating with him to surrender during a three-hour standoff, according to a news release issued by the Sheriff's Office.
"Preliminary investigation revealed that Mr. Jones had barricaded himself in a room of the apartment and was armed with a firearm," the Sheriff's Office said. "Members of [Crisis Negotiation Team] were able to make contact with Jones and engage him in a dialogue and successfully negotiate the release of a hostage."
"As deputies were negotiating with the suspect for his surrender, the Special Response Team was prepared to make entry," the release continued. "Deputies on the scene witnessed the suspect make an overt gesture with a black object toward the responding officers. He was subsequently shot by a member of the SRT unit."
The sheriff's deputy who shot Jones has been placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation and is not being identified at this time, the Sheriff's Office said. Cristie Kahler, a spokesperson for the Sheriff's Office, said Tuesday said the name of the deputy who fired at Jones would not be released "at any point" because he is assigned to a specialized unit within the Sheriff's Office.
"Our protocol dictates that we do not release the name of a deputy involved in a shooting that is assigned to one of those specialized tactical units," she said, explaining the protocol is necessary to protect the safety of the officer, his family and future operations of his team.
Kahler did say the deputy has been with the Sheriff's Office for five years, after making a "lateral" transfer from Baltimore County, and has been on the tactical team for two years.
The identity of the hostage has not been released.
Kahler said Jones had "a black plastic object" which he had "fashioned into the shape of a handgun" and he pointed it out of a window at the SRT officers, who were "outside, prepared to make entry if need be."
Kahler said the Sheriff's Office is concluding its investigation and will forward it to the Harford County State's Attorney's Office for a final review.
According to both the Sheriff's Office and the Havre de Grace Police Department, Havre de Grace officers initially responded to a neighborhood near the city's North Park for a report of a fight, after which officers learned a man was possibly armed and holding someone against their will.
Pfc. Jeff Gilpin, spokesman for the Havre de Grace Police Department, said police received a call regarding a fight around 4:20 p.m. Saturday in the 700 block of Hoppers Lane.
Gilpin said the officers knocked on the door of a home in the 700 block of Erie Street, which is one block north of Hoppers Lane, running parallel to it.
"At that point there was a subject who had barricaded himself," Gilpin said, explaining that by "barricaded" he meant that the suspect "had locked himself in a section of the house."
Gilpin said Havre de Grace officers were able to establish a "dialogue" with the suspect.
Members of the Harford County Sheriff's Office Special Response Team, as well as the county's Crisis Negotiation Team, were asked to assist, he said. The Crisis Negotiation Team includes representatives of the Sheriff's Office, all three municipal police departments and a Mobile Crisis Team, which is part of the Sheppard Pratt Health System.
According to Gilpin, the standoff ended around 7:30 p.m. with the suspect deceased. No one else was injured, he said.
"Initial information provided to officers was that the suspect had a protective order against him stemming from an earlier incident with a female who resided at the location," the Sheriff's Office news release states.
According to Maryland online court records, Jones had prior contact with the state's criminal justice system and was under indictment for firearm possession with a felony conviction, which was due to go to trial in November. He was free on bond.
Jones who has several addresses listed in court records, including on South Law Street in Aberdeen and on Green Street, had a peace order taken out against him 2005, according to court records; however, it was not clear if the order to stay away from the complainant was still in effect.
Jones had "no fixed address," but had stayed at the Erie Street apartment, Kahler said.
Saturday's fatal shooting was the second in six weeks involving a police officer and a suspect in Harford County.
On the night of Aug. 19, a Sheriff's Office deputy who was responding to a report of a break-in at a business in the Bel Air area, shot and killed a 19-year-old man, who police say acted in a threatening manner toward the deputy. That shooting remains under investigation by the Sheriff's Office.in a threatening manner toward the deputy. That shooting remains under investigation by the Sheriff's Office.