A man suspected of shoplifting was shot to death by an off-duty Baltimore County police officer as he attempted to flee outside a grocery store in Catonsville before dawn Tuesday, authorities said.
The man, whose name was not released, had been attempting to steal detergent from the Giant Food at U.S. 40 and Rolling Road about 4 a.m. when the officer, who was working as security, confronted him in the parking lot, Baltimore County police said.
The officer was in full Baltimore County police uniform but did not have a body camera because he had not yet been assigned one, said a police spokeswoman, Officer Jennifer Peach.The program is still being phased in.
The man got into the driver's seat of a car as the officer approached him and drove off, dragging the officer more than 100 feet before the officer fatally shot him in the car, Peach said. She did not say how the officer came to be dragged.
The officer "feared for his life," she said.
The man died at the scene, and another person, who had been sitting in the passenger's seat of the vehicle, was hospitalized for stress-related pain, Peach said.
The officer, whose name was not released, was not injured, she said.
The parking lot remained closed before 8 a.m., but the plaza and the grocery store were expected to open sometime later Tuesday, Peach said.
Baltimore County police have shot eight people in six incidents, four of them fatally, this year, Peach said.
Angelina Roper said she stops at the Giant most mornings for a yogurt or other breakfast item after getting off her bus at Geipe Road nearby. She was surprised to hear that an alleged shoplifting incident led to a fatal encounter.
Roper, 49, who lives in West Baltimore, said she saw employees chasing someone with an overflowing backpack across the parking lot of the Catonsville grocery store last week.
"When he realized they weren't going to stop following him, he ran up over that way and crossed Route 40," she said.
Pamela Edwards, 48, of Catonsville, said she had just returned home from a convention in Washington when she arrived at the scene Tuesday morning.
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Edwards, like some at the scene and on social media, questioned the officer's justification for shooting the suspect and wondered whether the man had a weapon. Peach said she did not know whether one was found.
"The person is definitely wrong for shoplifting, but to shoot and kill somebody?" Edwards said. "Especially if they didn't have a weapon ..."
County Councilman Tom Quirk, who represents Catonsville, called the incident "unfortunate," and said he was relieved to hear the officer was not hurt.
"We're a very safe community," he said. "Bad things sometimes happen in good places."