BY DAVID ANDERSON and ERIKA BUTLER, firstname.lastname@example.org
11:34 PM EDT, August 20, 2013
The father a 19-year-old fatally shot on Saturday by a Harford County Sheriff's Office deputy said Monday that based on what police and others have described about his son's actions in the hour or so before the shooting, "there's no doubt" he had taken some substance that altered his personality.
"That wasn't my son," Glenn Beckman said.
Beckman said Seth Jacob Beckman had been treated for depression and had been taking medication. But he also said he had speculated about his son possibly using synthetic drugs that are sold legally.
"I know he was under the influence of some kind of bad drug," he said, though he did not specify.
Investigators also are trying to determine if Mr. Beckman may have been under the influence of, a sheriff's office spokesman said.
"I cannot confirm at this time if Mr. Beckman was under the influence of drugs or alcohol," Edward Hopkins said. "However, his behavior, as described by witnesses and as seen on surveillance video, clearly shows that he was acting irrationally and erratically and something was causing him to act in this manner."
Police are hoping the toxicology report from the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner will help to determine if alcohol or drugs played a role in affecting his behavior,' Hopkins said.
The gas station lot that had been filled with police officers and patrol cars Saturday night – and well into the early morning hours Sunday, had a strikingly different appearance Sunday afternoon, as people purchased gas, snacks and even snowball treats.
"We're back and running," said Ed Castronova, who, with his wife, Sharon, owns the Sharon's Shaved Ice stand on the lot of the BP station lot at the intersection of Red Pump Road and Route 24 in the area just north of Bel Air known as Rock Spring.
"I didn't want to leave the place shut down," Castronova said. "I want to get right back up and running again."
Fewer than 20 hours earlier, at 10:44 p.m. Saturday, Mr. Beckman was shot to death just outside the small building that houses Sharon's Shaved Ice.
Mr. Beckman, who lived in the nearby community of Brentwood Park, was confronted by the deputy after Mr. Beckman, who police said had been seen acting disorderly and hostile at several nearby businesses the same night, allegedly broke into the snowball stand, which was closed.
As details of the shooting remained murky Monday, a small memorial consisting of a few roses placed inside what appeared to be a snare drum, was placed in the grass a few yards from the snowball stand.
"[My son] wouldn't hurt anybody, except in the sports arena and that was controlled, and he would pick you up after he knocked you down," Glenn Beckman said.
Beckman said his son was only aggressive on the athletic field, would befriend other youths who were being bullied and was "actually a very good kid, very compliant to authority."
Beckman said Seth had been treated for depression and was taking a medication injected monthly, and the most recent treatment was Thursday.
He was unsure, however, if some unknown substance that he suspected his son of taking Saturday night caused the personality change, or whether it was the result of combining the substance with his regular medication.
Deputy David Feeney, the 43-year-old deputy who shot Mr. Beckman, has been a sworn officer since June 2012 after working as a correctional officer at the Harford County Detention Center since January 2011, according to Hopkins. He is assigned to the Northern Precinct in Jarrettsville.
Feeney has been placed on administrative leave pending the investigation, in accordance with the agency's protocols in such circumstances. The Sheriff's Office is the principal law enforcement agency for the county, which has about 245,000 residents.
Hopkins could not say Monday if Mr. Beckman carried any kind of weapon or how many shots Feeney fired. He did say, however, the Sheriff's Office has obtained video surveillance from an area business showing Mr. Beckman was "acting irrationally."
"His behavior was just erratic," Hopkins said.
Hopkins also said Monday that prior to the shooting Saturday night, Mr. Beckman was seen acting aggressively at Planet Fitness in the Rock Spring Shopping Center on Route 24, where he damaged a sign, before moving to the Bynum 7-Eleven, where he was destroying merchandise and cold-cocked a customer, who it turned out Mr. Beckman knew.
Then he allegedly crossed the street to the BP gas station's convenience store and was acting up there and finally allegedly broke into the snowball stand.
"His behavior was overt and aggressive," Hopkins said, which is in concert with what a friend of Mr. Beckman's said later that night.
Eric Dupree of the Bel Air area said he had seen him briefly prior to the shooting and that Mr. Beckman had appeared "aloof and confused."
Hopkins had said Saturday there was an "altercation" of some sort between Mr. Beckman and Feeney, whose gun was drawn because he suspected someone was inside the snowball stand.
"As the deputy arrived he observed the subject was inside the snowball stand and ordered the suspect to come out," Hopkins wrote. "During the encounter shots were fired at the suspect seriously wounding him."
Police and paramedics treated Mr. Beckman at the scene then transported him by ambulance to Red Pump Elementary School about a mile away, where a medevac helicopter flew him to the Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore. He was pronounced dead at 1:10 a.m. Sunday, Hopkins said, and the body was sent to the Office of the State Medical Examiner for an autopsy.
Glenn Beckman said he and his wife, Linda, learned of the shooting after receiving a call from one of their son's friends Saturday night.
He said his wife rushed out of the house, and he was about "10 minutes behind" her.
Beckman said his wife had crossed the police lines around the BP station lot, and was able to recognize their son by his shoes before officers escorted her behind the line.
"We pretty much realized it most likely was Seth," he said.
He said he and his wife were able to make a positive identification at Shock Trauma, first by describing surgical scars on his back and knees to an investigator, and later when he saw his son's body.
Saturday's shooting was the fourth involving a police officer in Harford dating back to last fall, but the only one that has been fatal. Most recently, on July 29, an Aberdeen Police Department officer shot and wounded a 34-year-old man who police said displayed a handgun when he was confronted outside a motel in the city. The person who was shot remains jailed awaiting trial on first-degree assault and related charges, according to court records.
Back to business
At the snowball stand Sunday afternoon, owner Castronova said that when he was finally allowed by police to access his business, he found an estimated $1,000 damage, including to the screen door and door frame, as well as spilled flavored syrup and marshmallow fluff.
He said customers waited while the mess was cleaned up and the damaged door frame repaired.
"All day long, people have been coming up, wishing us well, making sure we're OK, so it's nice to know your customers think that much of you," Castronova said.
Darlene Zengel, of Bel Air, and Sebrina Ripple, of Forest Hill, were among the customers who purchased snowballs while Castronova was interviewed.
The gas station and convenience store were also open Sunday, and multiple vehicles were at the gas pumps. The yellow crime scene tape that had ringed the parking lot earlier was gone, as were the police cars.
"It's our neighborhood," Zengel said when asked what made her come to the snowball stand. "It's still somewhere to get a sweet treat in the evening; it's still a safe area."
Ripple, who said she and her family heard the emergency sirens and helicopter Saturday night, agreed with Zengel.
"We're not going to not come here," she said.
Community reaction swift
As the news of Mr. Beckman's death spread across social media Sunday morning and afternoon, families in Brentwood Park went about their business in the community off Vale Road.
The neighborhood consists of well-kept homes on tree-lined streets, some named after Hollywood actors, with names such as Bogart Circle, Cagney Court, Hepburn Lane and Peppard Drive.
Mr. Beckman lived with his family in the 1000 block of Peppard Drive.
Children were riding their bikes in the streets, parents played in yards with their children and people jogged or walked their dogs along the sidewalks.
Some residents noted the tragedy of losing a young person, but questioned why Mr. Beckman was allegedly breaking into the snowball stand.
Others remembered a young man who was quiet and kind, yet also an intense athlete. Mr. Beckman, who graduated from Fallston High School in 2012, played football and was a member of a local recreational rugby team.
"He was a good rugby player," said Peter Knorr, Mr. Beckman's teammate during the 2011 and 2012 seasons. "He was really into it."
Knorr, 19, and a resident of northern Harford County, was in Brentwood Park Sunday visiting his girlfriend, Sarah Leonard, also 19.
Leonard was a classmate of Mr. Beckman at Fallston High.
"He was just always full of energy," she recalled. "He was nice; he was just nice to all kinds of people."
Leonard said they had math and film classes together.
"He would talk to teachers, and he got along with everybody," she said.
Leonard and others who knew Mr. Beckman said he fell in with the "wrong" people toward the end of his life, however.
"All I want people to get from this was, he was a good guy but at the end just went the wrong way," she said.
Glenn Beckman sat in his living room Sunday evening with pictures of his late son. Beckman, his wife Linda and Seth's 26-year-old sister Brittany were in some of the photos.
The father said he last spoke to his son around 2:30 p.m. Saturday before he left to visit friends.
"We were just talking small talk about TV shows," he recalled. "It was just causal talk."
Beckman said he later watched his son leave on a skateboard.
"I was just looking out the window, he was rising a skateboard down the street, heading to his friend's house," the elder Beckman said.
He said friends, family and fellow members of Mountain Christian Church in Joppa had been stopping by all day, bringing food and giving their support.
He described the reported actions of his son leading up to the shooting Saturday night as out of character, though.
"Right now, I'll give the benefit of the doubt to the police officer until the evidence shows that we may have to look at another direction," he said.
He his son had struggled with his depression in recent months and had been hanging around the "wrong places."
He also described his son as quiet, popular and a great listener. He said his son had played football since the age of 5 and a half, but rugby was his favorite sport.
"He would punish you on the field and love you off the field," Glenn Beckman said. "He knew when to turn it off."
Glenn Beckman said his son had spent about 10 days receiving mental health treatment in Sheppard Pratt hospital in Baltimore County and had became popular among some of the young people he met there.
"He had a following of kids," the father said. "He was just making them laugh."
According to the family, viewings for Mr. Beckman, who is also survived by an older sister, Brittany, will Friday 2 to 4 and 7 to 9 p.m. Friday at Evans Funeral Chapel, 3 Newport Drive in Forest Hill.
The funeral service will be Saturday at 1 p.m. at Mountain Christian Church, 1824 Mountain Road in Joppa.
'Aloof and confused'
Mr. Beckman's friend, Dupree, said after the shooting that Beckman, whom he had not seen for about a year, looked "really just aloof and confused" when he came into the McDonald's.
He said Beckman greeted him and ordered food, but did not eat it.
"He said, 'What's up Eric?' " Dupree recalled.
Dupree said Beckman left the McDonald's, and shortly after his departure, Dupree and his friends in the restaurant saw a quickly-growing number of police cars enter the lot of the BP station.
"I saw it escalate from the beginning," Dupree said of the law enforcement presence.
He said he did not hear any gunshots, though.
"He's a close friend of a close friend," Dupree said of Beckman. "That's why it's sort of shaken me up."