Baltimore County prosecutors have ruled that police were justified in shooting a man who opened fire while on a bus in Dundalk this month, an incident captured by newly released video footage from police and MTA cameras.
Blaine Robert Erb, 35, was killed in the shootout with police June 7. A dramatic cell-phone video that showed Erb shooting from the bus was widely viewed on social media after a bystander posted the footage. Police body-camera and MTA surveillance footage was released for the first time Tuesday to The Baltimore Sun based on a public-information request.
The new videos show the incident unfold from different angles — from inside the MTA bus, which was equipped with security cameras, and from the body camera worn by one of the four officers who shot at Erb.
County prosecutors informed the police department last week that no charges would be filed against the officers who shot at Erb, said county State's Attorney Scott Shellenberger.
The videos "greatly contributed to our ability to make a quick decision in this case," Shellenberger said in an interview Tuesday. "It's clear that several officers were in danger and civilians were in danger. The officers had to protect themselves and the community."
Two women suffered non-life-threatening injuries in the shooting – a county police officer identified only as Officer Slocum and a 21-year-old bystander whose name was not released. Police said it is not yet clear whose gunfire hit the bystander.
"We know that Slocum was shot by Erb," police spokeswoman Officer Jennifer Peach said. "The forensic investigation into who shot the female civilian is still underway."
Shellenberger has adopted a policy in which he will release police body camera footage only if there is not a trial pending in the case. He said he released the videos in this case because no charges are pending against anyone.
Erb was suspected in the armed robbery of two people in a shopping center parking lot before he got on the bus on busy Dundalk Avenue that Wednesday afternoon.
The bus video shows Erb enter the bus and pay his fare. Others on the bus can be heard humming, laughing and talking. Later, two officers responding to the robbery call, including Slocum, are seen entering the bus to look for the robbery suspect later identified as Erb.
Shortly after, passengers begin to yell and lean into their seats. Gunshots are heard as someones screams. Soon, people on the bus run out. Once they are gone, Erb can be seen shooting from the doorway, a gun in each hand.
The police department has released the last names of three of the officers who fired their weapons, identifying them as Police Officers First Class Carver, Leary and Minton. The agency does not release the full names of officers involved in shootings because of an agreement with the county police union.
A fourth officer's last name was not released. Police cited the officer's undercover assignment as the reason.
Parts of the incident were also captured by Carver's body camera. Carver was the only officer involved in the shooting who was wearing a body camera, Shellenberger said.
Peach said that's because the devices are being gradually distributed among the county's 1,900 officers. About 1,400 officers are scheduled to get cameras by the end of September.
A niece of Erb, Ciara Bean, said she believed police could have fired at Erb "with a non-lethal shot."
"I wish Blaine would've chosen a different path and decided not to go out and do what he did," she said. "Then my family would still have a part of it that's now missing … I'm not justifying what he did, I just wish there were different methods of stopping what he did other than killing him."
Police have said that Erb had a lengthy criminal history in Maryland and other states, with charges including robbery and assault. Crystal Jantz, the mother of Erb's daughter, said Tuesday that she regarded him as "dangerous" and believes police were justified in their actions.
"He always said it, he would never go back to prison," Jantz said. "He would die first by the cops shooting him."
Baltimore Sun reporter Michael Brice-Saddler contributed to this article.