A man was fatally shot by police after he shot and injured two Baltimore officers who were attempting to arrest him in the parking lot of Security Square Mall on a warrant related to a homicide in the city, officials said Tuesday.
The wounded officers, part of the federal multi-jurisdictional Warrant Apprehension Task Force, sustained non-life threatening injuries and are in stable condition, Baltimore Police Commissioner Michael Harrison said during a late Tuesday morning news conference outside University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center, where they were taken for treatment.
Harrison said the officers had seen a vehicle connected to the suspect in a June 19 homicide that occurred on West Lanvale Street in the Harlem Park neighborhood. Police said the man in the vehicle fired multiple shots at officers as they attempted to approach his vehicle in the parking lot of the mall in Woodlawn just before 8 a.m.
Police identified the man who was killed as Justin Powell, 32, of Baltimore.
Several officers returned fire, striking Powell, Harrison said. He was taken to a hospital where he was pronounced dead, according to police.
“Our officers and our marshals were doing exactly what the people of Baltimore want us doing,” Harrison said at the news conference. “That is pursuing violent offenders.”
The wounded officers were assigned to the task force led by the U.S. Marshals Service and typically don’t wear body-worn cameras, a police spokeswoman said, so it’s unclear if there is any such footage of the shooting.
“Building a safer Baltimore requires us to hold violent offenders accountable,” Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott said during the news conference. “Today these officers were doing just that.”
Police had issued a warrant for Powell for the June homicide and for possessing a handgun.
Police say Powell has faced numerous charges in different jurisdictions.
Court records show that in 2018 Baltimore police charged Powell with kidnapping, armed robbery, assault, home invasion and being a felon in possession of a gun. But the records do not indicate whether he was convicted or even if the case was prosecuted.
In 2016, he was found guilty of illegally carrying a handgun and narcotics possession, according to online court records.
Zy Richardson, a spokeswoman for the Baltimore State’s Attorney’s office addressed both cases in a statement Tuesday evening, saying prosecutors didn’t have “requisite cooperation from the two victims and sole witnesses” in the 2018 case. In the 2016 case, prosecutors recommended prison time but the judge ruled otherwise, she said.
Powell also was charged with home invasion, assault and other charges stemming from a June 2019 incident in Allegany County, records show. That case was placed on the stet docket, which means the state could reopen it if it can show good cause.
“Today is a painful reminder of the dangers that law enforcement face every day in performing their duties to keep our communities safe,” said acting U.S. Attorney for the District of Maryland Jonathan F. Lenzner in a statement.
County and city police could not say which officers discharged their weapons, nor how many times they shot at or struck Powell. Harrison would not give more detail on the city homicide or what may have motivated it.
Ali Hines, 38, was found by police with multiple gunshot wounds that Saturday evening in the 1000 block of W. Lanvale St.
Hines was pronounced dead shortly after being transported to Shock Trauma in downtown Baltimore. He was one of two people killed, and among five people who were shot, that weekend in Baltimore.
The police shooting occurred right around the time Security Square Mall was starting to open Tuesday morning.
The 1 million-square-foot mall, built in 1972, has more than 100 stores and restaurants and is anchored by Macy’s, Burlington Coat Factory, So Home Furniture and AMC Theaters. A Sears mall anchor store closed in 2019.
In 2018, Set the Captives Free, a nondenominational church with around 2,000 members, paid $4.75 million to buy a 160,000-square-foot space in the mall vacated by Seoul Plaza and JCPenney. The church developed the O.W.E. Center, a community center, to hold worship and community services (O.W.E. stands for Outreach, Worship and Education, three areas on which the community center is focused).
Pastor Karen Bethea, owner of the O.W.E. Center, said she heard about the shooting from parishioners.
”My staff is in the building, and I was driving here, and everyone’s texting me: ‘Pastor, are you at the church?’” Bethea said.
Bethea said she was frustrated to hear about the shooting, in part because it may overshadow community outreach efforts. Her group just held a trash pick-up near the mall, she said, and is soon to open the community center, which will include daycare, work force development and youth programs.
”We have a lot of good stuff going on, but when this happens … this is what they remember,” Bethea said.
Following the shooting, the Randallstown NAACP called on Security Square Mall’s owners to provide 24-hour security and install CCTV cameras around the mall and parking lots to address “current crimes occurring in the area.”
They’re also asking mall management to clean up litter on the property with a plan to get rid of illegally parked cars and trash and invest more in its upkeep.
”Unfortunately the Black and Brown communities continued to be subjected to increased violence in their own communities and this can no longer be ignored,” the NAACP wrote in a statement.
The Randallstown NAACP is holding a community walk Aug. 2 with county officials at the mall, they said.
The mall’s management could not be reached for comment.
Amin Portee, owner of Saadia’s in Security Square Mall, said he heard about the shooting at about 9:30 a.m., just as he was heading to his shop.
The back door of his store was blocked off by crime scene tape Tuesday morning, so he had to enter by walking through the mall.
“It’s an inconvenience, a big inconvenience,” he said.
By about 10 a.m., a few mall workers were milling about, some wondering when they might be able to get to work. Mall patrons pulled up in their cars, wondering whether they could enter any of the stores near the crime scene.
Victoria Callis was having her car serviced at the Chevy dealership near the mall when she saw a televised report about the shooting.
“Everybody that was in there was just like: ‘Oh my god, that’s right down the street,’” said Callis, who lives in Owings Mills.
Once her car was returned, she decided to drive to the mall to see what was going on.
“We were just all concerned because this our community,” Callis said. “This is the Baltimore that we love and it’s just every day. You never know what’s going to happen.”
Baltimore County police will handle the criminal investigation into the police shooting and the city will conduct an internal review, Harrison said.
The confrontation follows a November shooting when a Baltimore police officer working on the Warrant Apprehension Task Force fatally shot a suspect while surveilling a fugitive at the intersection of North Ellamont Street and Westwood Avenue. Police said the shooting suspect pulled up at the intersection in a vehicle around that time, got out and fired into the officers’ vehicle, striking one unnamed officer in the upper thigh. The officer returned fire, killing the suspect, police said.
Before that, two officers associated with the U.S. Marshals Service were shot and wounded in Northeast Baltimore in February last year. In that case, Michael Marullo, a 33-year-old former Maryland corrections officer, was killed after opening fire on a squad attempting to apprehend him on a warrant for a shooting in Pennsylvania.
The officers, one shot in the abdomen, recovered.
Baltimore Sun reporters Emily Opilo, Lorraine Mirabella, Justin Fenton and Tim Prudente contributed to this article.