An off-duty police officer getting a haircut Saturday afternoon shot and killed a 38-year-old man who police say burst into the East Baltimore shop and shot a barber to death.
On Monday morning, police identified Carlos Ortega as the man who fatally shot the barber. Investigators allege Ortega was also responsible for two earlier shootings that left a 44-year-old man dead and another person critically injured.
Police are trying to determine a motive linking the three shootings. The third and final shooting occurred at The Bladi Style barber shop in the 5700 block of O’Donnell St. in Baltimore’s Medford neighborhood.
After Ortega allegedly committed the other two shootings Saturday, he entered the barbershop and fatally shot 33-year-old Rafael Jeffers, authorities said.
The off-duty Baltimore police sergeant was getting a haircut from another barber at about 3:16 p.m., Harrison said. The officer, who was armed while off duty and in plain clothes, responded quickly “and with great bravery produced his firearm” and fatally shot Ortega, Police Commissioner Michael Harrison said.
Harrison said detectives linked the shooting to the two earlier incidents, but he declined to elaborate on the possible connection between them.
“We’re processing three different scenes in three parts of the city,” the commissioner said. “While this perpetrator has expired from his injuries, we will still need answers to these questions.”
One victim was is in critical condition from a shooting that occurred around 2 p.m. in the 5000 block of East Oliver St. in the Armistead Gardens neighborhood, about two miles away from the barber shop, police said. Police believe that shooting followed an argument.
Police also said Javier Villegas Cotto, a 44-year-old man, died from a shooting in the 4600 block of Eastern Ave., near Greektown.
“We are working to determine the connectivity, which is a likely connectivity,” Harrison said during a briefing near the barber shop.
The police officer, who was not identified, was not injured, Harrison said.
Mayor Brandon Scott appeared at the briefing with Harrison, thanking the police officer.
”This is something the average person wouldn’t do,” Scott said. “And this is something that our officers do each and every day in the city of Baltimore.
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Added Scott: “We don’t know what would have happened if he was not able to respond in that way, and how many more incidents could have happened tonight here in Baltimore City.”
The barber shop’s Instagram page promotes “before and after” shots of various kinds of haircuts and shows youthful-looking barbers in yellow vests working inside the small shop.
Because he was off duty, the police officer did not have a body camera, Harrison said. But he said the officers who responded to the shooting did have cameras.
The shootings were called “horrifying” in a statement by state Senate President Bill Ferguson, who said, “We must do better.”
“Although information is evolving, I’m grateful for the officer’s quick action to subdue the perpetrator,” said Ferguson, whose Baltimore district includes two of the shooting sites.
Raquel Coombs, a spokeswoman for the Maryland Office of the Attorney General, said investigators from the office were dispatched to the scene. A new law that took effect Oct. 1 requires the attorney general’s office to investigate all deadly uses of force by officers across the state.