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Baltimore school police union defends officer who shot alleged robber: ‘Violent crime is out of control’

The attempted robbery of an off-duty Baltimore school police officer and a retired state corrections officer, which ended in the two killing the suspect Saturday in Baltimore, “is proof that violent crime is out of control," the school police union president said Monday.

According to a police report released Monday, Devante Jones, 22, wore a black ski mask and pointed a handgun at a group of five men sitting outside a home near Guilford Avenue and East 23rd Street about 11:15 p.m. Saturday, demanding they “kick it out." Harvey Battle, the off-duty Baltimore school police officer, and Michael Ross, the retired corrections officer, pulled out their handguns, the report said.

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Ross, who has a Maryland handgun permit, fired his weapon about nine to 10 times, hitting Jones “approximately twice,” according to the report. Jones ran away and collapsed in a nearby yard, where a medic treated him before sending him to Johns Hopkins Hospital for treatment of a gunshot wound to the upper chest. He later died from the injury.

Before being taken to the hospital, Jones admitted to trying to rob the men, police said. “They shot me as I tried to rob them,” he said, according to the police report.

Reached by phone, Battle declined to comment Monday. Ross did not respond to a voicemail message.

Jones was on probation after a fourth-degree burglary conviction June 13, according to Maryland court records. His family could not be reached.

Sgt. Clyde Boatwright, president of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5, which represents school police officers, noted recent attacks on off-duty police personnel in the city and urged officials in all levels of government to support police, who he said are “eager to continue the fight against violent criminals who are praying on our communities.”

Baltimore Police Sgt. Isaac Carrington was shot in a robbery in Northeast Baltimore earlier this month. In July, Deputy Commissioner Daniel Murphy and his wife were robbed in Patterson Park, and a 59-year-old civilian police employee was assaulted and robbed in Jonestown, according to city police.

“The men and women of the Fraternal Order of Police Baltimore School Police Lodge #5 stand firmly in support of the actions of our member,” Boatwright said in a statement. “Confronted with an immediate threat to his life, our officer relied on his training and took the appropriate action. We do not celebrate the loss of life in this situation; however, this case is proof that violent crime is out of control in the City of Baltimore."

The two officers, “deserved to enjoy a beautiful Saturday night in Baltimore City without being targeted for a robbery by a masked gunman,” the union president said.

Battle, an officer who has been with Baltimore City Public Schools for a decade, has been placed on leave during the police investigation, school district spokeswoman Arezo Rahmani said Monday. Police have not announced any charges.

The police report does not say whether Battle fired his weapon.

“It appears to be a justified shooting, but obviously the state’s attorney’s office will make that determination,” Baltimore Police spokesman Matt Jablow said Monday.

The Baltimore State’s Attorney’s Office did not respond to a request for comment.

Paul Starks, a spokesman for the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, confirmed that a corrections officer named Michael Ross retired in August 2016 after about 30 years of service.

Neighbors had mixed reactions to the incident.

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Alexis Doss, 32, who lives at Barclay and 23rd streets near the site of the shooting, questioned the police account of the incident.

“It just don’t sound right,” said Doss, who is studying to be a computer technician. “Why were they sitting here? ... Anybody with a right sense of mind would not be sitting at Guilford and 23rd at that time of night."

But a 62-year-old neighbor, who declined to give his name for fear of his safety, said the retired corrections officer and the off-duty school police officer are friends who both live in the neighborhood.

Another neighbor was carjacked in recent weeks on Guilford Avenue, he said. The robber on Saturday, he said, "picked the wrong guys.”

“Younger guys want to go around here robbing people,” he said. “Get a job. It’s crazy.”

Bri Saunders was home watching television when she heard about five gunshots. At first she thought they might have been fireworks, she said, but then she saw the police helicopter circling and police cars fill the street.

Saunders, 25, who moved to Barclay from Hampden two months ago, said she was shocked to hear gunshots from inside her home.

“The neighbors were quick to say this never happens,” she said.

Paul Baglyos, a 61-year-old Lutheran clergyman who lives nearby, was out of town for the weekend, but heard about the shooting from his wife.

“Baltimore’s got a pretty chronic problem with gun violence,” he said. “Unless we get the political will to end it, it will go on and on.”

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