A 19-year-old Elkridge man shot eight times by police last week while carrying what appeared to be a semi-automatic handgun died early Monday, Nov. 14, Howard County police said.
Jeffrey Dustin Nichols, of the 6600 block of Grouse Road, had been at the University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore since he was shot Nov. 7.
Howard County police said they shot Nichols in a Hanover warehouse parking lot after he repeatedly refused to drop the gun, which turned out to be a pellet gun designed to look like a real weapon, police spokeswoman Sherry Llewellyn said.
Whether Nichols raised his gun is part of the ongoing police investigation, Llewellyn said.
The shooting was the department's third encounter with Nichols in less than two months. Police had been called to Nichols' home on Sept. 11 and Oct. 7, and in both incidents the teen injured himself with a knife, Llewellyn said. In the Oct. 7 incident, Nichols refused to drop a knife and told officers he wanted them to shoot him, she said.
Sarah Coleman, who said she had been friends with Nichols for about six years, said he was "really nice," got good grades and liked fishing and crabbing. But Nichols began to act different a couple of months ago, she said.
"He was upset. He hid everything, but nobody knew it was this bad," said Coleman, 20, of Elkridge. "He just started acting weird. He didn't really hang out with anybody that much. No one heard from him, and then there were his past two recent attempts with suicide."
She said she visited Nichols at the hospital Sunday after being told that he was not going to survive.
Viewings will be held at Harry H. Witzke's Family Funeral Home in Ellicott City from 3 to 5 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 17, according to the funeral home's website. The funeral service will be held Friday, Nov. 18, at the Catonsville United Methodist Church in Catonsville from 10 to 11 a.m.
"He really isn't a bad person," Coleman said. "This shouldn't have happened. I think it could've been avoided given the proper treatment in the first place. He didn't want to hurt anybody. He just wanted to hurt himself."
County police officers are trained on how to deal with people suffering from mental illness, Llewellyn said, but in this case the 911 call only reported that a man had fired a gun, and the officers who responded were not aware of his name or background.
"When a caller says a man is firing shots in a neighborhood and officers responding to that call confront a person who refused to identify himself, it's impossible for them to know what they're dealing with," Llewellyn said.
Police were called at about 3 p.m. on Nov. 7. Officers found a man with a gun walking near Loudon and Melrose avenues, Llewellyn said. He ignored police orders to drop the weapon and continued to walk along railroad tracks, leading to a rear parking lot of a warehouse at an industrial park in the 7400 block of Hi Tech Drive, she said.
Officers followed the man and again ordered him to drop the weapon, but he did not, Llewellyn said. The man was then shot by police in his torso and extremities, she said.
County police policy allows for officers to use deadly force if they feel that a person's actions will lead to death or serious physical injury. This was the first police-involved shooting for the Howard County Police Department since November 2008, following an armed robbery at a Clarksville bank.
Six county officers were confirmed as firing their weapons: Ofc. Bryce Buell, a 10-year officer; Sgt. Jayson Janowich, a 12-year-officer; Ofc. Brian Klakring, a 5-year officer; Ofc. Joshua Mouton, a 4-year officer; Ofc. Ryan Saulsbury, a 10-year officer; and Ofc. James Zammillo, a 7-year officer.
Ofc. Ronald Mabe, a 13-year officer, was involved in trying to apprehend Nichols but did not fire his weapon, Llewellyn said.
They have been placed on paid administrative leave, which is department procedure after a police-involved shooting, Llewellyn said. Once the officers return to work, it will be on administrative assignment until the investigation is done, she said.
Nichols had attended the Community College of Baltimore County but was not taking any classes this semester because of personal issues, his father, Kenneth Nichols, told The Baltimore Sun last week.
On Sept. 11, police were called to Nichols' home for a report of a man cutting his arms with a knife. Nichols was bleeding and was taken to the hospital, Llewellyn said.
On Oct. 7, Nichols called 911 and said he needed assistance. When officers arrived, they found him outside with a knife, Llewellyn said. Nichols told officers he wanted them to shoot him, imploring them to "just do it" and "make it quick." After refusing to drop the knife, Nichols stabbed and cut himself until police stopped him and took brought him to the hospital.