A weapon a man was holding when a Baltimore police officer shot him turned out to be a BB gun spray-painted to look like a real gun, police said.
The wounded man was the second suspect the officer involved has shot this year.
He was publicly identified on Thursday as officer Charles Mewshaw, 31, a three-year veteran assigned to the Southwest District as a patrol officer though he typically works as a special operations officer, Baltimore police spokesman Sgt. Eric Kowalczyk said.
At about 7 p.m. Tuesday, Kowalczyk said, Mewshaw and a partner were driving back to the Southwest District police station after a handgun violation arrest when they saw a drug deal occurring in the 3400 block of Old Frederick Road.
Mewshaw, in plainclothes wearing a ballistic vest identifying him as police, and another officer chased one of the suspects, who police said appeared to be holding a weapon.
"When the officer approached, he observed what appeared to be a weapon," Kowalczyk said. "It was only after the fact that we discovered that it was a BB gun and the red safety tip had been spray-painted black."
Mewshaw shot the man multiple times, police said. The man was taken to Maryland Shock Trauma Center, and Kowalczyk said the man was alive on Thursday.
Police have an open arrest warrant for possession of a controlled dangerous substance that officers plan to serve shortly, Kowalczyk said. Police declined to identify the man shot until that warrant is served.
Mewshaw has been put on paid leave while homicide detectives investigate the shooting — which is department protocol — to determine if the shooting was justified.
"It looked identical to a handgun," Kowalczyk said of the BB gun. "He was confronted by a suspect by what appeared to be a weapon, he feared for his life and the situation unfolded the way it did."
On Jan. 28, Mewshaw shot at a man in West Baltimore after he came out of a home near Edmondson Avenue and Hilton Street with what appeared to be a concealed gun, police said at the time.
The man jumped into a sedan and drove in the direction of police, who shot him. The man was taken to an area hospital with serious injuries.
Two other Southwest District officers were involved in that shooting besides Mewshaw: Chris Szakolczai, 25, a one-year veteran and Kevin Saliba, 26, a two-year veteran. At the time, police said all three fired their weapons and it was unclear who wounded the driver.
Immediately after the shooting, police did not find a gun that the officers believe they saw, and Kowalczyk did not know whether one was eventually found.
The Baltimore State's Attorney's Office cleared Mewshaw of any criminal wrongdoing, and he was allowed to return to work — though a police administrative investigation remains open on the shooting, Kowalczyk said.
Court records show the man shot in that case, Shaun Daniel Mouzon, 31, was not arrested on any weapons-related crimes. He was charged with failure to obey a reasonable and lawful order and seven traffic violations. A trial is scheduled on Sept. 25.
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Court records show Mouzon has been convicted of several traffic and drug-related offenses including intent to manufacture or distribute controlled substances.
He could not be reached Thursday and a message left for his attorney was not immediately returned.
Thirteen people have been shot – four of them fatally -- by police in 11 incidents so far this year.
Last year at this time, police officers had shot nine people, seven of them fatally. By year's end, Baltimore officers had shot 15 people in 2012 resulting in nine fatalities.
Baltimore Sun staff writer Justin Fenton contributed to this report.