The family of the late Eric Sopp has filed a federal lawsuit against the Baltimore County police department and the officer who killed him, alleging the department has a troubling history of killing people in the midst of mental health crises.
Before Sopp, 48, was shot by police on the shoulder of Interstate 83 in Baltimore County, his mother had called 911 for help, saying her grown son had been drinking and feeling suicidal before he drove off. He had threatened to stab himself with an ice pick before driving off unarmed, according to the lawsuit.
“Rather than de-escalating an encounter with a suicidal and depressed man, Officer [Gregory] Page aggressively escalated it by pointing his weapon at Mr. Sopp, barking multiple and conflicting commands, and ultimately shooting him without justification,” attorneys for the family wrote in the federal lawsuit.
Page fired at least eight times and killed Sopp in November 2019 near the exit for Belfast Road. Three months later, the Baltimore County State’s Attorney’s Office declined to bring criminal charges against the officer.
Deputy State’s Attorney Robin Coffin wrote that she found the shooting justified because of Sopp’s erratic driving, suicidal behavior and disregard for the officer’s commands.
The police department declined to respond Tuesday to the allegations made in the lawsuit. The department has not yet filed its response in the U.S. District Court in Baltimore.
“We do not comment on pending litigation,” Sgt. Vickie Warehime, a police spokeswoman, wrote in an email.
The department released footage in February from the officer’s body camera. The video shows Page draw his gun and approach Sopp’s Toyota Camry as they’re pulled over on I-83. The officer orders Sopp to place his hands on the dashboard and turn off the car. Sopp twice tells the officer that he won’t turn off the car.
“I’m getting out,” he tells Page.
“Don’t get out of the car, sir!" the officer orders him. "Don’t get out!”