Unarmed man shot, killed by Baltimore County officers in Owings Mills

Baltimore County police officers shot and killed an unarmed man in Owings Mills early Thursday while responding to a report of domestic violence at a home they had visited more than a dozen times over the past three years.

Spencer Lee McCain, 41, died about 8 a.m. at Sinai Hospital in Baltimore, police said.


Baltimore County Police Chief Jim Johnson said officers believed McCain was armed. They did not find a weapon on him.

Police received a 911 call about a possible domestic disturbance at the condominium in the 3000 block of Hunting Ridge Drive in Owings Mills shortly after 1 a.m., Johnson said. He said a 10-year-old child who lived at the home called a grandmother, who dialed 911.


He said the first officer to arrive knew of a history of domestic violence calls at the home. Since 2012, police said, officers responded to 911 calls for the address 17 times, including several reports of fighting.

On Thursday, Johnson said, the first officer heard screams for help coming from the home. Three officers, "fearing that someone was in imminent danger of injury or death," forced their way into the home, he said.

As the officers went inside, Johnson said, they encountered a man in a "defensive position" making movements that led officers to believe he had a weapon.

The man was later identified as McCain, Johnson said. He would not elaborate on the man's actions or why police believed he was armed.

All three officers fired at the man and hit him several times, Johnson said. Nineteen shell casings were found on the floor in the area where the officers shot the man, police said.

Tony Fugett, president of the NAACP's Baltimore County branch, said he was briefed by police on the shooting. McCain was black, as was one of the three officers.

"Whenever there is a police-involved shooting, there's always a concern of what happened," Fugett said. "Typically, what we do is we will look into the matter and we will see what the report says. We don't like to jump to any conclusions."

Police did not release the names of the officers. All three have been placed on administrative duty, Johnson said. Under the union contract, officers involved in shootings are not identified until 48 hours after the incident.

Police called McCain an "estranged associate" of Shannon Sulton, who lives in the condominium. They said the woman had injuries Thursday that included swelling above her eyes, scratches on her forearms and cuts on both sides of her mouth.

Sulton said McCain told her, "You're going to get the beating you deserve," Johnson said.

She declined medical treatment, police said.

No one answered at the condominium Thursday afternoon, and Sulton could not be reached for comment.


The 10-year-old and a 2-year-old were in the home during the shooting, police said. A third child who lives at the home was not there at the time, police said.

Sulton's mother, Rochelle Byrd, placed the 911 call after one of her grandchildren called her. Byrd told The Baltimore Sun that McCain was the father of Sulton's three children. She said McCain and her daughter had been a couple off and on for years, but McCain "wasn't that social" and she didn't know him well.

Byrd said her daughter and grandchildren are doing "as best as to be expected."

"It's rough. It's rough," she said.

Police said Sulton had obtained a domestic violence protective order against McCain. Online court records show a protective order was filed in October barring McCain from visiting the home and the children's schools and requiring him to surrender any firearms. The order is valid through Oct. 8.

Online court records for McCain show a second-degree assault charge that was put on the inactive docket in 2004 and a conviction in 1992 for carrying a handgun. He received a six-month suspended sentence.

Keith Lewis, who has lived next door for five years, said he has heard yelling and screaming from the home several times, and was awakened by noise early Thursday.

"Something hit the wall," Lewis said. "I woke up. I heard yelling. The babies were crying. It sounded like begging and pleading. ...

"Five to 10 minutes later, I saw cruisers. I saw the officers pull up out front. It quieted down, and I drifted back to sleep. Then I heard her yelling again. I heard the door get booted, and then all hell broke loose. I heard probably 10 shots."

Baltimore County homicide detectives are investigating. The case is to be reviewed by the department's shooting review board, the chief and the county state's attorney's office.

"In the hours and days ahead, we'll learn more and in greater detail about what the officers knew, thought and perceived in every moment that transpired," Johnson said.

Baltimore Sun reporter Alison Knezevich and the Associated Press contributed to this article.


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