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Baltimore officers who opened fire on teen holding BB gun ‘shot first, asked questions later,' attorney says

Baltimore Police body camera footage of a police-involved shooting of a 16 year-old on Erdman Avenue.

Baltimore police officers “shot first and asked questions later,” when they opened fire in April on a 16-year-old boy with a BB gun, striking him in the arm, his civil attorney said this week, while the teen’s public defender is calling on prosecutors to drop charges filed against him.

Attorney Duncan Keir said his client was playing with friends on a porch and that police jumped to conclusions that he was an armed threat. Body camera video released by police in May shows Officer Alexia Davis standing in the street on Erdman Avenue and shooting at the boy as he stands with others. A passing vehicle was struck by a bullet.

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“While the investigation is still ongoing, it seems incredibly clear that this is a bad shooting,” Keir said.

The teen was shot in the elbow, and charged in juvenile court with possession of a BB gun, assault and burglary. City lawmakers passed a law making BB guns illegal after another teen was shot by police in 2016.

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Jennifer Egan, the chief of the Baltimore public defender’s juvenile litigation section, said the boy has been traumatized by the shooting. That trauma is being “magnified by the efforts of BPD and the State’s Attorney’s Office to prosecute him,” said Egan, who is representing the boy on the criminal charge.

“Our client is clearly the victim, but BPD and the SAO charged him with an imaginary assault that is not supported by any witnesses and with burglary for running into his friend’s home when he heard gunshots,” Egan said. “There is no evidence to support the charges against him and we are calling on the State’s Attorney’s Office to immediately drop the charges. This young man is the unequivocal victim in this scenario and to treat him otherwise is a miscarriage of justice.”

Zy Richardson, a spokeswoman for the State’s Attorney’s Office, said the prosecutors cannot comment on the boy’s case due to juvenile court secrecy restrictions, adding: “The Office of the Public Defender should try to remember those obligations as well.”

Police said in an initial statement that the officers saw two men about to get into a fight, and that one of them was holding a handgun.

But Keir said the boy was with friends and playing on the front porch of a house where he was allowed to be.

“Police jumped to some conclusion about what was going on,” Keir said.

“They fired three or four rounds, into the front of a residence from 50 to 100 feet away,” Keir said. “I can’t believe they actually hit my client, but they did.”

Davis, the officer who police say struck the teen, had been on the job for about a year after graduating from the police academy in February 2019.

Police said Wednesday that Davis has not returned to work but is scheduled to return June 30, adding that she “will then remain on light duty until she has completed after action training.”

Last month the department released grainy surveillance video from the nearby Save A Lot grocery store shows a group of people standing outside an end-of-unit rowhome on Erdman Avenue. One person can be seen leaving the porch. A second person follows, then turns around and returns to the porch.

Police said Davis and a second officer, Lamall Wilson, were in the shopping center and heard a commotion. The two officers are then seen running across Erdman Avenue, as traffic passes, and across a median strip, toward the rowhome.

While in the street, Davis fired toward the group, police said.

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Body camera video then shows the BB gun being tossed from the porch, and three people are seen running into the house. Davis and Wilson then run toward a parked car on the street and take cover and call for backup.

Keir said he has filed notice of intent to sue the Police Department over the shooting.

“It’s affected him quite significantly,” Keir said. “He has been losing sleep and having a lot of troubles, quite candidly. He’s suffering from nightmares and being generally anxious and fearful.”

The Baltimore State’s Attorney’s Office has not yet made a determination on whether the officers’ actions merit criminal charges.

Baltimore Police say they will conduct an internal review, but say under state law they may not share the findings of that review with the public.

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