Minutes before Baltimore Police shot Marcus Martin to death in his home earlier this month, officers discussed trying to get a robot into the home and warned that Martin would shoot it, according to video footage of the incident and a police timeline of events.
Martin did fire a shotgun blast as the device neared his front door around 3:19 a.m. Aug. 9, police said Thursday, and was killed when a SWAT sniper fired a single shot from outside the home.
Police released video of the encounter with Martin, along with video from the nonfatal police shooting of Terrance Hillman on The Block two days later, during a Thursday afternoon news conference. In the latter case, police said Hillman pulled a gun during an altercation on the street known for its adult entertainment establishments.
At the news conference conducted by Police Commissioner Michael Harrison and Deputy Commissioner Brian Nadeau, head of the department’s Public Integrity Bureau, officials said internal investigations of both shootings are ongoing.
Martin, 40, was experiencing a behavioral crisis Sunday, Aug. 8, when his family members called police around 9:15 p.m. to report an assault at the home in the 6000 block of Alta Ave.
After officers responded to the house, one of two women who’d walked out of the home told officers that Martin was “having an episode” and had firearms, the video released Thursday shows. The two women, who authorities said Thursday are Martin’s wife and daughter, appear calm and one seems surprised that police responded to her call.
“He’s been having an episode, but he hasn’t done nothing to the point where I knew that you guys would come out,” one of the women says in the footage, adding that he has refused to be taken to a doctor’s office or a hospital for treatment.
The woman tells the officer that Martin has been diagnosed with schizophrenia and that her 14-year-old son is still inside the house. Police said the 14-year-old made it out of the house safely, although it’s not shown in the footage released Thursday.
The officer asks why he has a gun if he’s diagnosed with a mental illness and the woman responds “because it’s not nothing that’s stopped him from getting a gun.”
The rest of the video is a compilation from the body-worn cameras of several responding officers who helped as negotiators spent about six hours unsuccessfully trying to get Martin to peacefully surrender. None of it shows footage of the front of the house. Officers can be seen in their vehicles and behind other buildings in the neighborhood, but Martin cannot be seen in any of the footage.
In the footage, timestamped at 3:12 a.m., officers discuss getting a robot into the house, saying that it had trouble navigating stairs.
“I think he’s about to shoot your robot,” one officer says in the video
A few moments later, an officer can be heard on the radio warning others that Martin himself called 911 during the negotiations, telling the emergency operator that he could see police units in front of his house.
“He’s going to shoot them and he’s going to shoot anyone who comes into his house,” one officer says in the video.
“He’s gonna pop whatever comes through the front door,” one officer says.
In other footage, depicting officers positioned at a nearby house who appear to be operating the robot, one of the officers says the robot is at the house’s front door and is in position to try to speak with Martin.
However, less than a minute later, a loud boom that sounds like a gunshot can be heard off-camera, followed by another a few seconds later.
Police said Martin fired and the shot exited the house.
Police sniper Jeffrey Archambault then shot and killed Martin at 3:19 a.m., the department said. The shooting cannot be seen from any of the video made available at Thursday’s news conference.
Police said they found three AR-15 semi-automatic rifles, two shotguns and a pistol in the home with Martin, and that he shot the robot with a shotgun.
Harrison said the department does not have any direct footage that shows the shooting, adding that Archambault’s body-worn camera was turned off. Nadeau said that Archambault was acting as a sniper across the street and that snipers turn off their cameras for a variety of reasons, such as not wanting the camera’s green light to give away their position.
Police have said Martin fired his shotgun in response to “tactics deployed by SWAT” but had not elaborated on what those tactics were until Thursday’s news conference. The department also initially told reporters that Martin had come to the front door and opened fire on police officers outside.
Martin was the fourth person fatally shot by police in Baltimore this year.
In the days after Martin’s death, his family wrote on a GoFundMe page that police “busted down the door” and sent a robot inside. The family wrote that Martin did not shoot at police and had fired his gun at the robot.
“Marcus Martin lost his life due to an ongoing mental illness which resulted in the police using excessive force. Because of this, he was pronounced dead on the scene,” according to the GoFundMe page.
Martin’s family did not respond to requests for comment Thursday.
While the department has faced criticism for how it responds to behavioral or mental health crises, Behavioral Health System Baltimore said that its crisis response team did not help with the Martin incident because the man was said to be armed and could have had hostages.
The city’s mental health agency has criticized the department for how it handles behavioral health incidents, including when officers shot Ricky Walker, a man experiencing a crisis who pulled a gun out while talking with two responding officers in July 2020.
However, Adrienne Breidenstine, the organization’s vice president of policy and communications, said SWAT members have had additional training on handling behavioral health crises.
The roughly two-minute video police released Thursday of the shooting on The Block later that week shows the initial altercation and the resulting pursuit that led to an officer firing his weapon.
The footage shows a man, identified by police as Terrance Hillman, appear to point a weapon at a group of people involved in a fight before running away when approached by an officer nearby.
The officer pursues him on foot and, as he chases him to the 300 block of W. Baltimore St., it appears that the man stops and turns around toward the officer, who then shoots him. There’s no sound in the video, but police say Officer Alexandros Haziminas shot his firearm three times.
The video then highlights an apparent firearm that police recovered near Hillman after he falls to the ground.
Police said Thursday that Hillman has since been released from the hospital and was placed into custody on outstanding warrants.