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Baltimore County police fatally shoot man who allegedly threatened to harm himself and others on I-83

A Parkton man who was shot and killed Tuesday night by a Baltimore County police officer during a traffic stop on Interstate 83 had a history of depression and anxiety, his mother said Wednesday.

Tuesday was particularly “rough” for Eric Sopp, 48, as he made suicidal threats throughout the evening, said the woman, who sat down Wednesday with The Baltimore Sun. She recounted the events leading up to her son’s death and demanded answers to how her call for help went so wrong.

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She asked not to be identified, citing safety concerns.

Sometimes Sopp would disappear from their home for days, so she said she refused to give him his car keys Tuesday evening, fearing that he would harm himself. When she threatened to call 911, he took the phone and broke it in half, she said. Soon after he grabbed two other phones and tossed them across the room.

A man broke a phone inside of the home of his mother's house during a night he was making suicidal threats. After he left the home, he was later shot and killed by Baltimore County Police during a traffic stop on Tuesday, Nov. 26, 2019.
A man broke a phone inside of the home of his mother's house during a night he was making suicidal threats. After he left the home, he was later shot and killed by Baltimore County Police during a traffic stop on Tuesday, Nov. 26, 2019. (Phillip Jackson)

Moments passed and her son grabbed an ice pick from a kitchen drawer and stuck it to his neck, making a motion that he would stab himself. The mother persuaded her son to put the ice pick down, but he ended up taking her car keys out of her purse and went outside to try to drive off.

She stopped him by giving him back his car keys, and he drove away in his own car. Before Tuesday, the last incident in which her son left the home was “a couple months ago," she said.

After he left, she said, she went downstairs to the basement and used another phone to make a missing person call to 911, hoping to get her son help.

Less than five minutes after he walked out, she said she got a 911 operator on the line and advised police to look for him “as soon as possible.”

Officers arrived at the home within 10 minutes, the mother said.

Late Wednesday evening Baltimore County issued a statement in which they said Sopp had been drinking at home, but provided no details of the shooting. They did not name the officer who shot Sopp.

“As with any police-involved incident, we are conducting a thorough investigation of the sequence of events, circumstances and evidence surrounding last night’s shooting,” police said in a statement. “The officer is currently on administrative leave, per departmental policy. Once the department’s investigation is complete the results will be forwarded to the Office of the State’s Attorney for review.”

Ofc. Jennifer Peach, spokeswoman for the Baltimore County Police Department said officers got to the home on the Pheasant Wood Court around 9 p.m. They canvassed the area but he was gone.

Officers later located the vehicle traveling southbound on I-83 north of Belfast Road and pulled the car over, Peach said.

Peach did not release specific details about how or why the altercation became fatal, whether the man had a gun, or whether any shots were fired other than the one by the officer.

Peach said the officer and medics attempted to resuscitate Sopp but that he died of his wounds. Preliminary information indicates he was alone in the car, she added.

The officer involved was required to wear a body camera, but Peach did not indicate whether the camera was operating when the shooting occurred.

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On Wednesday, his mother questioned the officers’ tactics during the shooting. Although noting her son was not in a functional mental state, she said police could have deescalated the situation so the shooting would not have been necessary.

“My son was not in a good mental frame of mind. What they really did was kill my son and I am not happy about that at all,” his mother said. “I don’t think it should have ended the way it did. I think it could have been other ways to handle this, particularly with two policemen at the scene.”

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