Capital Gazette wins special Pulitzer Prize citation for coverage of newsroom shooting that killed five

Officer kills man wielding knife; Victim is fatally shot after barman orders him to leave, calls 911; Doctor witnesses shooting


A 39-year-old man wielding a knife was shot and killed by a Howard County police officer yesterday afternoon near an Ellicott City bar, minutes after a bartender ordered the man to leave and called 911 to report his disorderly behavior, officials said.

John R. Sierra of the 9800 block of Old Annapolis Road in Ellicott City suffered a single gunshot wound to the chest and was pronounced dead at a Baltimore hospital.

The officer, Sgt. A. J. Bellido de Luna, was not injured and was placed on administrative leave. Bellido de Luna, a well-respected 10-year veteran, heads the department's traffic section.

Sgt. Morris Carroll, a police spokesman, said the shooting "appeared to be justified."

A physician who witnessed the 1: 30 p.m. shooting said the officer confronted Sierra, who initially complied with an order to drop his knife and lie on his stomach. Then, "the man got up, picked up the knife and started brandishing it [at] the officer," said Dr. Robert Baldwin, 37, who works at Dorsey Hall Medical Center, next to G. L. Shacks Grill.

Despite being warned "at least five times" by the officer, Sierra continued to approach him, Baldwin said. Sierra was about 10 feet away when Bellido de Luna fired, police said.

"Some physicians from our office came down and were attending him," Baldwin said. "Then the paramedics came."

Police were summoned to G. L. Shacks Grill in the 9500 block of Old Annapolis Road, on the Columbia border, by a bar employee who reported an intoxicated man with a large knife, Carroll said.

Bellido de Luna arrived and stopped his unmarked patrol car on Old Annapolis Road near a parking lot that serves G. L. Shacks and an office building, Carroll said.

Bellido de Luna spotted Sierra, who was carrying a large knife, said police and witnesses.

Sierra was flown to Maryland Shock Trauma Center. Soon afterward, detectives and crime lab technicians combed the scene for evidence that included the man's eyeglasses, windbreaker and keys, all resting behind a police cruiser.

Bellido de Luna was shaken after the shooting. As he left the scene, his eyes were filled with tears.

Sierra's neighbors described him as a friendly man, who frequently dropped by to visit. He was looking for a job, they said.

"He would come by to use our computer," said Lisa Machado, 17, a neighbor. "He really liked to go running."

Machado said Sierra had a son, J.R., who turned 5 on Friday.

Just before the shooting, witnesses said, a man -- later identified by police as Sierra -- walked into G. L. Shacks, sat down at the bar and ordered a double vodka with Sprite. He later ordered a second round, spilled it and ordered a third -- which the bartender said she filled with water and Sprite, said a patron, John Kelchner, 31.

"She told us she filled the drink with water and Sprite, no vodka," Kelchner said.

At some point, Kelchner said, the man showed a knife to the bartender and was asked to leave.

The man walked around the corner, entered Allview Liquors and asked for a bottle of Findlandia vodka, said Ron Henriques, co-owner of the store.

He bought a $15.74 bottle with his credit card, Henriques said. After the man left the store, Henriques said, he heard a gunshot outside.

"I was standing right next to the guy" when he was in the store, Henriques said. "He came in here and seemed a little off."

Pub Date: 1/20/99

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