A 59-year-old man is in stable condition at a hospital Sunday night after being shot by Baltimore Police who were returning fire while responding to a call about a man suffering from a behavioral crisis, the department said in a news release.
At about 4:25 p.m., Northwest District patrol officers responded to a home in the 4100 block of Crawford Ave., police said. The man fired at the officers as they tried speaking with him, according to the release.
Officers fired back and shot the man, the release said, adding that he is in custody with charges pending. Saturday night, the man had been in critical condition.
Earlier Saturday night, police spokeswoman Chakia Fennoy said no officers had been shot. She said there was a threat in the area, which is in the Grove Park neighborhood in Northwest Baltimore. The investigation is ongoing.
Donell Williams, 58, said he was next-door when the shooting took place.
First, from his upstairs window, Williams saw a police officer in front of the his neighbor’s house holding a gun at his side. Williams could hear his neighbor tell the officer he was armed. Then, Williams saw two people leave the house — both family members of the suspect, he said.
Then, Williams saw more police cars arrive, and that’s when his neighbor started shooting, he said. After a volley of what sounded like 20 shots, Williams said he felt sure his neighbor hadn’t survived. He headed for his downstairs window, where a piece of blue tape covered a bullet hole Sunday. He saw his neighbor lying on the ground outside. Police waited to approach him, but then they tended to his wounds, Williams said.
Neighbors said the suspect, who police have yet to name, was known for erratic behavior, and they feared for his mental health. Sunday, a large banner hanging on the home where the incident took place read: “If a crowd says go left and God ask [sic] to go right what will u do?” A sign planted on the lawn read “In God we trust.” Porch furniture and a television cluttered the front porch, as a Baltimore Police cruiser idled out front.
“We grew up as friends,” Williams said of the suspect. “But 10 years ago, he just, he lost it.”
Williams said his neighbor became increasingly paranoid over the years, and the two rarely spoke. His neighbor would use trash cans, boxes and piles of leaves to block the parking spaces in front of his home. He installed a number of security cameras on his home, and began hanging large signs with political and religious messages. The home — once well-maintained — became an “eyesore.”
“I tried to keep telling him to get help, but he’s like: ‘Yeah, the government’s after me,’” Williams said.
Helen Wyche, 79, who lives down the street from where the shooting occurred, said she and her husband had just finished Christmas dinner when they heard gunshots.
“What I heard, we thought were firecrackers,” Wyche said.
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After the shooting, around 9:30 p.m., a police officer knocked on the door and asked Wyche and her husband to evacuate, either by walking through their backyard to another block, or sitting in their backyard. Because of the cold weather, they asked to drive to their nephew’s house close by, and there they remained until just before midnight. The reason for the evacuation remains unknown.
Wyche said the suspect grew up alongside her children. She’s lived in her home for nearly 55 years.
“He’d been deteriorating for a long time,” Wyche said of her neighbor. “I guess a year or two before Obama took office, he started really deteriorating. And then after Obama took office, he started with all these big signs on his roof, on his porch.”
Wyche said she felt her neighbor was a “walking time bomb.”
“Yesterday was just a culmination of everything,” she said.
Wyche said she hopes to see officials in the city take greater steps to remove illegal guns from the streets, and prevent them from ending up in the hands of people unfit to handle them. And she hopes more individuals like her neighbor are connected to the mental health care they need.
“I just hope he gets the help he needs, if he makes it,” Wyche said.