An armed man demanding methadone at a North Baltimore drug treatment facility died after an exchange of gunfire Monday morning that left another man dead, a veteran police officer injured and patients fleeing for safety, city police said.
Police did not identify the gunman, who was later pronounced dead at a nearby hospital, nor the man who was found fatally shot in the Man Alive clinic in the 2100 block of Maryland Ave. Police said a woman who worked at the clinic was also taken to a hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.
“This was a dangerous situation that could’ve been far worse for our officers, but they showed extreme courage, extreme bravery and professionalism," Baltimore Police Commissioner Michael Harrison said at a news conference outside the University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center.
Harrison identified the injured officer as Sgt. Billy Shiflett, 51, one of many officers responding to calls of an armed person at the clinic shortly after 7 a.m.
Harrison said the suspect had been allowed into the clinic before the shooting. Once on scene, civilians told officers that a man fired shots inside the building, he said.
Officers then entered and attempted to de-escalate the situation many times, but the gunman began firing, Harrison said.
Shiflett returned fire and was struck in the abdomen under his bullet-proof vest, Harrison said. The officer was taken to Shock Trauma where he immediately went into surgery. He was listed in serious but stable condition.
George Dowler, a patient who was waiting for his daily methadone treatment, said he heard a gunshot inside his counselor’s office, then saw another patient emerge from the office holding the employee at gunpoint. The gunman shouted at her and demanded to be let into an area behind the counter, where the medication is kept, Dowler said.
“'Open that [expletive] door or I’m going to shoot you,'” Dowler, 61, of Baltimore County recalled the man saying. “She let him in, and then I screamed, ‘Let her [expletive] go!’” he continued. “He did let her go, and she comes running back toward me, and I said ‘Go to your office. Go to your office.’”
Dowler said a police officer who came in with a rifle was shot in the stomach.
Harrison said Shiflett was pulled from the building by a fellow officer, later identified as Christopher Miller.
Investigators continued to process the scene Monday afternoon. Harrison said the incident was under investigation. Officers have recovered a firearm from the scene, he said.
Man Alive Inc., which was incorporated in 1967 and bills itself as one of the longest-running medical treatment facilities in the city, will be closed Tuesday, and patients are being redirected to nearby REACH Clinic for treatment, according to a recorded message.
A representative from Man Alive could not be reached for comment Monday.
Harrison said Shiflett’s wife, children, sister and brother were at the hospital.
“We want to make sure our thoughts and our prayers are with our officer for a speedy recovery,” he said.
Shiflett, a 25-year veteran of the department, has spent much of his career in the aviation unit, said Maj. Richard Gibson, who heads the Northern District.
Miller, 32, is also assigned to the Northern District and joined the force in 2016, the department said.
Two people were killed and two others, including a Baltimore police sergeant, were injured Monday morning when an armed man entered a drug treatment center.
Several law enforcement agencies, including the Maryland U.S. Attorney’s Office and the FBI Baltimore office, expressed well-wishes for the officer’s recovery.
Gov. Larry Hogan called the shooting a “senseless act of violence.”
“Our hearts are with the victims’ loved ones, and we are grateful for the prompt response by law enforcement,” he said in a statement on Twitter.
Lester Davis, a spokesman for Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young, said the police commissioner was in close communication with Young about the shooting.
“His heart goes out to the officer, the officer’s family and the entire BPD,” Davis said. Davis called the shooting a “tragic situation,” and said the officers’ actions prevented “more loss of life.”
City Council President Brandon Scott said the shooting shows the continued need to quell gun violence in the city, which is on pace to reach 300 homicides for the fifth year in a row.
“This morning’s event highlighted the heroism of Sgt. Shiflett and his fellow officers, while again reminding us of the severe problem of gun violence in our city. It’s imperative that we deal with the flow of illegal guns into our city," he said.
Harrison said he and members of the monitoring team for the U.S. Justice Department consent decree have reviewed the body-worn camera footage from the incident. He said the department is following a recently established policy and will have up to a week to determine whether to release it publicly.
This is the second officer-involved shooting this year, both since Harrison has been the city’s top cop. In March, Kevin Bruce Mason, 57, was shot by an officer after an hours-long standoff with officers. Harrison said an officer fired believing he was armed, though police never located a gun at the scene.
In both shootings, officers have used long guns, which are used by certified officers in certain circumstances, such as barricades, where there is greater distance between officers and suspects.
Several hours after the shooting, a small crowd gathered outside the Man Alive building. Some said they were trying to get into the building to receive their medication.
A group of people cried and embraced behind the clinic. Several were on the phone, recounting what happened inside.
Neil Kavanaugh, 51, a patient, said he never expected anything like this to happen — especially because the clinic has armed security.
“You come here to get your medication and that’s it,” he said. “It’s just crazy.”
You come here to get your medication and that’s it. It’s just crazy.
Neil Kavanaugh, Man Alive patient
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Pippy Scott, 65, described barricading herself in a corner of the office and curling into the fetal position.
Scott said she heard the man banging on the door of an office, yelling for methadone. He then held a gun to the head of an employee, Scott said.
The counselor talking with Scott tried to intervene.
“He was saying, ‘Come on, man. Let’s talk about it,’” Scott said about her counselor.
Finally, Scott heard a nurse yell for everyone to get out of the clinic. She ran outside, fearing for her life.
Kurt Schmoke, the president of University of Baltimore, located near the site of the shooting, called the incident "totally disheartening."
As mayor in the 1990s, Schmoke championed methadone programs, often talking about "medicalizing" the drug problem and treating addiction as a public health issue.
“I have not heard of violent activity in those places in recent years, so my hope is that this is an exception and not the rule in terms of what happens around them,” he said. “Given the level of addiction in our community, we need those services to be provided.”
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Anette Sutton, a patient at a nearby methadone clinic, said she worries the shooting will further stigmatize all methadone patients as simply being addicts looking for a fix.
“There’s a lot of people on methadone that do the right thing,” she said. “There are some that don’t. The ones that do the wrong things ruin it for the people that do the right thing.”
Sutton sat on the curb just outside the crime scene tape, taking drags of a cigarette and watching the police go in and out of the clinic. She wondered when the street might reopen so she could make it to her appointment.
But mostly, she was thankful she hadn’t been inside the clinic during the shooting.
“It was scary,” she said. “It could have been me.”
Baltimore Sun reporters Talia Richman and Kevin Rector contributed to this article.