Former Baltimore Police Commissioner Anthony W. Batts was pulled out of an all-day review at the Hilton hotel of the riot response to receive word of his firing.
"We were finishing up, around 3 o'clock, and he asked me to see him outside," said Chuck Wexler, the executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum, which is leading the city's review of the late April response to the unrest. "He said, 'I just got a call from the mayor. I gotta' go see the mayor."
Wexler said Batts didn't tell him that he had been fired but he looked "solemn and disappointed."
Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake announced that Batts had been replaced at about 3:45 p.m. At a news conference, she told reporters that questions of Batts' leadership had become a distraction from fighting crime.
Batts has declined to comment on the mayor's announcement.
At 3:06 p.m., the Police Department through its Twitter account posted a picture of the Hilton session, which read, "#PCBatts and Command working with PERF and regional partners on the Civil Unrest, After Action Review."
Batts had a news conference outside of the Hilton scheduled for 4 p.m., where he was to discuss the review. Earlier in the day, the city police union had issued its own report sharply critical of Batts and decisions made by commanders.
Wexler said the city's review brought together city commanders along with officials from surrounding counties and the National Guard who were brought in to help quell the disturbance.
"We're going through all of the issues. It was a very candid conversation, all of the challenges from equipment to training, incident command. We're getting at all of them, it was very productive, and then out of the blue, this happened," Wexler said, referring to Batts' dismissal.
Wexler, whose group is often tapped to help conduct searches for cities looking to hire police chiefs and worked on the panel that selected Batts, said he had no inkling that Batts' firing was looming.
Wexler said the city will have a challenge finding a replacement, should it look for another candidate besides interim Commissioner Kevin Davis.
"Baltimore's really been challenged this summer," Wexler said. "It will be daunting."
He said the looming election presents a "difficult dynamic" as well.
"Prospective candidates, whether inside or outside, they look at longevity," Wexler said.