In his 41-years as a lawman, Harford County Sheriff Jesse Bane has never fired his gun at anyone. He's come close a few times, he said, but for some reason didn't pull the trigger.
Bane said he knows what it's like to be confronted with the situation where he may have to use deadly force. And, that's why he's confident his deputy was justified when he fatally shot a 19-year-old Saturday night when responding to a break-in at a snowball stand in the Rock Spring area just north of Bel Air.
"I have every confidence the deputy did what he had to do when he rolled in on that scene," Bane said during an interview at the Sheriff's Office headquarters on Main Street in Bel Air Monday afternoon.
Deputy David Feeney, 43, was responding to a call for a violent person who police have said was acting "overt and aggressive," when he encountered and shot Seth Jacob Beckman.
From the time he got the first phone call, around 11:30 p.m. Saturday, informing him of the shooting, Bane said he has been worrying.
"I've not really been able to sleep since then," he said. "Because [it's] the loss of a life. It's an unfortunate situation where the deputy had to take a life and I'm concerned about that deputy. It's not something you want to handle every day."
The deputy has been "trying to deal with the situation," said Bane, who planned to either call or stop by Feeney's house to "make sure he was doing OK."
"I'm very concerned for the deputy and his family. He's an exceptional deputy, I don't want to lose him, but I'm certain the thought has come up, 'Is [this job] worth it?' " Bane said.
As of Tuesday afternoon, the Sheriff's Office's investigation of the shooting was continuing.
Quick decisions, difficult situations
The deputy had to make a quick decision whether to pull the trigger. Every officer has to make that decision when he fears for his life or someone else's, the sheriff said.
"You have a split second, sometimes not even, sometimes it's less, to react. I've told my deputies since I've been sheriff, 'I want you to go home at the end of your shift to your families,'" Bane said. "He [Feeney] made a decision on what he was able to evaluate at the time."
Today's police officers are working in a more dangerous world than when he began his law enforcement career, Bane said.
"It's more dangerous today than it's ever been. We're making demands on the people protecting us that would be unacceptable in any other profession except the military," he said. "We expect them to be right, society expects them to be right in everything they do."
Society today is very violent, with a proliferation of weapons on the street along with people who don't like law enforcement, he continued. When you add those factors with someone who has mental health issues or is under the influence of narcotics or another drug, it makes the job very difficult for deputies, Bane said.
Mr. Beckman's father, Glenn Beckman, has said he believes his son, who was taking a depression medication, acted out of character because he was under the influence of drugs when he was killed. Toxicology reports are pending, according to police.
Shoot to kill
Public reaction to the fatal shooting has been mixed.
Bane, however, is steadfast.
"When you handle these things, you have to let people know you support their decisions, because if you don't, if you start to hesitate, if they see that, it's going to get a cop killed," he said.