Body cam footage of several Baltimore police officers firing on a man who pulled a gun on them in the basement after they responded to a behavioral crisis call.
Baltimore police released the body camera footage Thursday of officers shooting a man having a behavioral crisis eight days ago after he suddenly drew a weapon and pointed it at one of the officers as they spoke to him in a basement.
The department also provided new information raising questions about the handling of an incident 10 days earlier in which the same man, Ricky Walker Jr., was hospitalized after being found naked with a gun that he reportedly fired at vehicles.
Baltimore Police Commissioner Michael Harrison said a gun registered to Walker was seized at that time, but there was no follow-up regarding a second registered weapon.
The state has a “red flag” law that allows authorities to take guns from people who may pose a threat to themselves or others.
“This is exactly the sort of circumstance this was created to prevent,” said Elizabeth Banach, executive director of Marylanders to Prevent Gun Violence.
The shooting came amid a renewed national conversation on policing in America, and local activists and experts have expressed concern particularly about incidents in which officers respond to mental health crisis calls.
Harrison said Thursday that while he agrees “with much of the sentiments, it’s important we put this into context with the realities of the safety of all those involved.” He noted that medics stayed outside due to safety concerns, and said any crisis team of mental health providers would need to receive training on how to respond to situations involving individuals who are believed to be armed.
“Those are the things we’re working on,” Harrison said.
Adrienne Breidenstine, vice president of policy and communications for Behavioral Health Systems Baltimore, said that seeing police officers “just completely escalates the situation for people.” The group has a 24-hour crisis team that was not called to the scene.
“The video was upsetting to see,” Breidenstine said. “It shows mental health professionals should have been involved with the response, along with police and EMS.”
City Council President Brandon Scott commended the officers’ “efforts to deescalate the situation and for their willingness to continue to put their own lives at risk to respond to the needs of our residents.”
“This incident is an illustration of how tense and sometimes dangerous the work of our police and first responders can be, especially when guns are involved,” Scott said. “It also demonstrates how seriously we have to take the work of reimagining public health and safety in our city. Having the tough conversations about how to provide proper behavioral healthcare will play a key role in reducing our dependence on BPD and will allow them to focus their work on reducing violence in Baltimore.”
Police released the 911 call made by Walker’s mother-in-law in the early morning of July 1, as well as body camera footage from three officers who responded.
In the 911 call, the woman tells the dispatcher that Walker is in the basement having an episode. She answers “yes” when asked if he’s possibly or likely violent, and that she doesn’t know whether he has a weapon. She warns the dispatcher that if officers and medics show up with sirens wailing, “He’ll go crazy.”
Body camera footage shows that by the time officers arrive, the mother-in-law says he had a gun a week earlier and may have another. A medic appears to be familiar with the earlier incident.
“Was he combative?” someone asks the medic.
“Very,” the medic responds. “Highly combative.”
The medics remain outside as the officers enter the home and go into the basement, where Walker is on an opposite side from a woman identified as his wife. The officers asked her to go upstairs.
Walker can be heard talking to someone who is not there, and tells the officers they are in his home illegally.
“I’m not trying to kill none of y’all,” Walker says.
“Yeah, I got you man,” Officer Asa Gray says.
“I’ve seen enough death, yo. ... How these people police officers, how they get in here? I didn’t call these people,” Walker says. “I want to shake your hand. Come in front of the cameras. He gonna try to kill me in real life.”
His mood swings between telling the officers he is peaceful and yelling at them to get out of the home.
“Do you want to talk to the doctors, sir?” Gray says.
Walker frequently has his hands over his head.
“Please save my life, yo,” Walker says.
Gray is holding handcuffs and says medics are outside when Walker pulls a handgun from his shorts pocket and holds it up. He then points the weapon with both hands at Officer Eduardo Ortiz, who fires along with Officer Avery Torand, who is standing behind Gray.
Ortiz has been a member of the Baltimore police force since May 2017 and Torand has been on the force since May 2019.
Harrison said that all three officers who were in the basement have gone through three different behavioral health training programs, which include deescalation techniques. A new Crisis Intervention Team training program has not been rolled out yet, Harrison said.
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Regarding the June 20 incident, Harrison said Walker was reported to have been shooting at vehicles in the 5800 block of Loch Raven Blvd. and was found naked and with a handgun that was registered to him. No reports or 911 calls from that incident were released.
Harrison said that, at that time, police did not have an address for Walker. He was not charged with a crime.
“At that time we had no fixed address for this individual, no addresses we could identify,” Harrison said. “Since we didn’t have a fixed address or permanent residence, there was no place to search for other weapons. But he was given a mental evaluation that night ... which is appropriate response.”
But Harrison said that after the shooting by the officers, the residence where the shooting occurred was searched and eight weapons were found, including a second weapon registered to Walker.
Asked whether police should have taken steps after the first incident to determine whether Walker had additional weapons, Harrison said the investigation was “ongoing.”