Carroll County's top prosecutor said Friday that his office has cleared two Baltimore Police Department officers of any potential criminal charges in connection with a shooting that injured a man after a traffic stop.
In January, the Baltimore State's Attorney's Office asked Carroll County State's Attorney Brian DeLeonardo's office to review the case because of a potential conflict of interest, based on a personal relationship between a Baltimore City prosecutor and one of the officers involved in the shooting.
"After carefully reviewing all of the available evidence, including statements of several independent eyewitnesses, I have concluded that the two officers who discharged their weapons did so based upon a reasonable belief that an officer was in imminent danger of death or serious injury," DeLeonardo said in a prepared statement.
The Carroll County State's Attorney's Office will also be handling the prosecution of the man who was injured, 23-year-old Jawan Jerome Richards, of Baltimore, who is facing charges of second-degree assault, illegal possession of a firearm with a felony conviction and other related firearms changes.
The shooting occurred after police stopped a sport utility vehicle driven by Richards in the 3400 block of Piedmont Ave. at about 1:20 p.m. Jan. 27. Officers Robert Hankard and Carmine Vignola identified themselves verbally and were wearing tactical gear displaying "Police," according to a news release from DeLeonardo's office.
As the officers approached, Richards allegedly accelerated his SUV in reverse, tearing the door off their unmarked police vehicle and striking Hankard in the leg, according to charging documents.
As this occurred, according to charging documents, Hankard and Vignola fired at Richards, striking him once in the neck.
Richards was taken to a hospital as a result of his injuries. Hankard was treated and released that day.
Police allegedly found a semi-automatic handgun containing eight live rounds on the driver's side floorboard of Richards' car, and numerous baggies of suspected marijuana were found in the car, according to police.
Richards has a trial date of June 28 scheduled in Baltimore City Circuit Court in connection with his charges related to the incident.
Hankard and Vignola are both nine-year veterans of the Baltimore police force assigned to the Ceasefire program, which focuses on shutting down drug markets and reducing shootings by focusing on individuals with known links to drugs and violence. Both officers had been placed on routine administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation.