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Police name man shot by off-duty officer during attempted robbery

Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin Davis commended the off-duty officer who police say shot a suspect during an attempted robbery at a West Baltimore liquor store.

Police say Robert Jerome Howard, 44, followed the detective into the Green Tree Liquors in the 1400 block of West Baltimore Street just before 6 p.m. Friday, produced a gun and a knife and attempted to rob the officer.

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The gun turned out to be a replica, Davis said Saturday, "but at the time, obviously it was perceived, and rightly so … as a firearm by our off-duty detective."

The officer, who is assigned to a federal task force, was standing at the liquor store counter, police said. He pulled out his service weapon and shot Howard, police said.

Howard was taken to Maryland Shock Trauma Center, where he was pronounced dead, police said.

Davis said the officer acted appropriately and courageously. He said a witness in the shop told him he felt his life would have been in danger if the officer had not acted.

"He did the absolute right thing," Davis said of the officer.

Davis said the department laments any loss of life, but Howard made the decision to follow the detective, pull the gun out and try to rob him.

Police said Howard, of the 2200 block of Charles St., did not know the man he was attempting to rob was a police officer.

The officer, whose name was not released Saturday, is a 16-year veteran.

The department requires off-duty officers in Baltimore to carry their service weapons.

Davis on Saturday also criticized some media outlets who quoted people at the scene who identified themselves as witnesses and gave what he said was false information.

Davis read an excerpt from a Baltimore Sun story in which a man said Howard "ran in the store for safety." A second man said the officer started "fussing" with the Howard, who cursed at the officer before the officer drew his weapon.

Davis said several other outlets spoke to the men, but that their accounts were false. He called the reports "absolutely erroneous and irresponsible," and said the two men "lied about what occurred."

The department released surveillance video outside the store that shows the officer walking into the shop, and Howard crossing the street just behind him, contradicting the witness accounts.

Police spokesman T.J. Smith said the video then shows Howard stopping to look at the officer's parked car. Howard then follows him inside the store, the video shows.

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The department also released video clips from inside the store, where the officer is seen standing at the counter when Howard walks in the door and withdraws the weapon, prompting the officer to open fire.

The officer's face is blurred out to protect his identity, Smith said, because the officer works in an undercover capacity.

"It didn't appear to be any type of confrontation whatsoever that took place leading up to this incident," Smith said.

Davis said the accounts were especially troubling "in this very heightened sensitive time," as police departments in Baltimore around the country face growing scrutiny over several alleged incidents of unlawful police shootings and brutality.

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