Baltimore Police officers were justified in fatally shooting a gunman inside a Baltimore methadone clinic in July after he killed an employee and opened fire on them, city prosecutors have determined in a report that sheds new light on the shootout and the suspect who started it.
In a report posted online by the office of Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby, prosecutors found that Sgt. Bill Shiflett — who was shot and badly wounded in the showdown — and a second officer were justified in opening fire on the gunman, 49-year-old Ashanti Pinkney, after Pinkney killed phlebotomist David Caldwell, 52, held other employees hostage and then twice opened fire on them.
It was “objectively reasonable for the officers to conclude that their safety and the safety of the employees and patients at the treatment center was at risk, leading them to protect themselves and the people in the treatment center by utilizing force," the prosecutors wrote.
“Once [Pinkney] fired a shot at them, officers were justified in firing back,” they wrote. “Once [Pinkney] fired at them again, they were justified in firing at him yet again.”
Shiflett, who remains on medical leave but has plans to return to duty, said Monday he was “grateful that it’s been settled” after so many months. He also said he was grateful for the medical care he received at University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center, and for the support he has received from the police department and other law enforcement agencies across the country.
“Everybody wants to move on. We have to put this behind us and move on," he said. "It sounds so cliche, but what else do you say?”
In addition to its legal analysis clearing the officers, the report provides new insights into the harrowing hostage situation at the Man Alive clinic in North Baltimore — citing accounts from witnesses and quoting directly from a “manifesto” Pinkney allegedly left behind.
“Once [Pinkney] fired a shot at them, officers were justified in firing back.”— State's Attorney report
Noting they had corrected “typos," prosecutors quoted Pinkney as writing: “…I am independent now…” “…I’ve been poisoned…” “…Miseducation, Mass Incarceration, gentrification, access to wealth, police state genocide…” “…has to change, I expect the demons to show, no slave left behind, repair us and America will thrive…”
Prosecutors also cited camera footage that “unambiguously shows [Pinkney] entering the clinic, bypassing the normal sign-in process, pulling out a firearm, approaching the LabCorp laboratory area, shooting twice into the lab workers’ space, walking to an employee’s office, and holding her at gunpoint while she allowed him into the secured pharmaceutical area.”
The woman, who was the clinic supervisor, told prosecutors she negotiated with Pinkney, telling him she would give him access to the secure area if he allowed three nurses to escape — an agreement he honored. Prosecutors wrote that he began consuming methadone immediately.
An employee in the dispensary area told prosecutors Pinkney was talking about “racial stuff” such as reparations, and quoted him as saying, "I’m not gonna hurt ya, I just want the methadone — I’m gonna drink the bottle, gonna kill myself.”
A private security guard told prosecutors that, just before police officers arrived, she had managed to corner Pinkney and start up a conversation.
“She had a rapport with him, and was able to convince [him] to put the gun down on a chair; however the gun was always within his reach," prosecutors wrote.
He picked it back up when the officers arrived, they wrote.
Pinkney’s family could not be reached for comment. In addition to Caldwell being killed and Shiflett being wounded, a woman working at the clinic also was injured by shrapnel.
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Mosby is alone among prosecutors in the state to post detailed “declination reports" online whenever prosecutors in her office decline to file charges in cases in which police officers use deadly force, something police transparency advocates have praised her for. Her office also takes longer to review such cases than other prosecutors in the state, drawing some criticism — particularly in cases like the one in the methadone clinic, where police body-camera footage confirmed soon after the incident that the officers had been fired upon.
Shiflett was hailed as a hero by the police department almost immediately, as he received treatment at Shock Trauma for a bullet that struck him beneath his bullet-resistant vest. He was awarded the department’s highest award for his bravery in confronting Pinkney during an awards ceremony in October.
The police department did not respond Monday to a request for comment on the prosecutors’ report.
Shiflett has previously described what happened after he arrived on scene as the ranking officer, learning there was a gunman inside who had already killed one person, and telling Officer Chris Miller that they had an “active shooter” scenario on their hands.
That meant they had to go in before more people were hurt, according to their training, Shiflett said.
“It was time to stop him,” Shiflett recalled thinking in an interview with The Baltimore Sun in October. “If me and Chris don’t confront this guy, and if he doesn’t drop his weapon, the potential for him killing other people is nearly 100 percent."
Police body-camera footage previously released in the incident showed Shiflett with a rifle moving down a narrow hallway toward Pinkney. Prosecutors determined the officers were giving commands to Pinkney to drop his weapon; that Pinkney then fired once in their direction; that Shiflett then shot at Pinkney through a wall, likely hitting him; that Pinkney then popped out into the hallway and fired again, striking Shiflett, before being shot again as both Shiflett and Miller fired their weapons.