Baltimore County Police say an officer fatally shot a man and injured another after an armed man confronted the officer near a town home complex in Essex.
The department wrote in a news release Sunday night that Robert Johnson Jr., 29, of Owings Mills, died after he was shot by an officer who allegedly saw him exiting a vehicle armed with a gun.
The department did not say whether Johnson fired the weapon or pointed it at the officer, writing only that a “preliminary investigation reveals that the officer made contact with Johnson, who exited the vehicle armed with a gun.”
A second unnamed man was also shot and suffered injuries that were not life-threatening, the department wrote. Police did not name the second man nor his role in the incident, calling him a “subject” and not a “suspect” in the investigation.
A crowd from an afternoon cookout had dispersed after 10:30 p.m. Saturday when officers arrived at Cove Village Townhomes, but the first officer on the scene “was confronted with an armed suspect and discharged his weapon,” according to Officer Jennifer Peach, a county police spokeswoman.
The department wrote that Johnson died after he was taken to the hospital. Officers recovered a gun at the scene, Peach said.
The officer, whose name was not immediately released, was not injured. The officer has been placed on administrative leave, as is routine, Peach said.
Peter Febo, chief operating officer of the Kushner Co., which owns Cove Village through its subsidiary Westminster Management Co., said that “the safety of our residents is our priority as an organization."
"We are doing everything we can to cooperate,” Febo said in a statement.
Neighbors described the shooting as the aftermath of an afternoon cookout that had slowly wound down.
A neighbor, Kayla Stokes, was sitting near her window watching TV when she noticed a police car pull up, scattering a group of about 10 neighborhood kids who had been outside all day, she said. About half of them were young, around 4 and 5 years old, and the rest were teenagers, Stokes estimated.
The officer pointed a flashlight and his gun at the group immediately and began chasing and shooting a minute or two after getting out of the patrol car, Stokes said.
She said the person holding a weapon threw it down and ran away.
Of the officer, Stokes said, “He didn’t wait. He just started shooting. I told my child’s father, ‘They shooting him for no reason.’ Police seen him throw it down. ... I don’t understand why he would shoot him in the back. It was clear as day he was running away from him."
Stokes said the other person was shot in the leg.
Peach declined to say where the men were shot, writing in an email that the “investigation is still active and ongoing as far as injuries sustained. Autopsy results are pending.”
“The police had no right to do what they did to that boy at all,” Stokes said. “Now, some mother doesn’t get to kiss their kid goodnight. That’s all I could think about.”
She disputed the county police department’s statement that the crowd dispersed before the officer arrived.
“Any of them young kids could’ve got shot,” she said. “They were hiding behind freakin’ cars.”
Asked about the size of any gathering at the time police arrived, Peach said the investigation was in its early stages.
Homicide detectives are investigating the shooting and will review police body camera footage, Peach said.
A 46-year-old neighbor awoke in bed to a “Pop! pop! pop! pop! pop!" that she assumed was fireworks. But when she came to the front door moments later, a young man was bleeding all over her front steps, and county police officers with guns drawn shouted at her to “Close the [expletive] door!” said the woman, who has lived on Skipjack Court for five years.
“I have a 5-year-old,” said the woman, who was concerned for her safety and declined to give her name. “She saw that. She’s distraught. She was crying, upset, shaking all night.”
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She said police not only risked shooting “a lot of children out here,” but easily could have fired a bullet into any of the houses.
“I understand the pressure the police are under,” she continued. “But anybody could’ve gotten hurt. I really feel as though they could’ve done it a different way.”
Another neighbor, Darlington Anaba, 56, said an ambulance took about 30 minutes to arrive, and paramedics had to wheel a stretcher down the street to get past police tape and cruisers before attempting to resuscitate the more seriously wounded man.
Anaba, who was born in Nigeria and has lived on Skipjack Court for four years, said incidents like the one Saturday night are why he tells his 21-year-old son to obey the police, even if he thinks he is not doing anything wrong.
“If you are dead, you can’t speak for yourself,” he said. “But if you’re alive, you can say what happened.”