The Baltimore Police Department concluded an investigation into a video posted to social media that appeared to show a police officer being taunted by a man with a gun inside a shop, saying now that the gun was fake.
Investigators said the officer in the video knew the gun was not real, Police Commissioner Michael Harrison said in an interview Friday. He also said that the officer was aware that the young men were filming a video for their entertainment that was posted online.
Harrison said he was trying to correct information after his department released a written statement to The Baltimore Sun saying that police were aware of the video and had opened an internal affairs investigation.
In a statement spokeswoman Lindsey Eldridge sent to The Sun late Wednesday, the department said it was looking into the video and the unnamed officer.
“In April 2021, the Baltimore Police Department was made aware of the video and immediately opened an internal investigation into this incident. The incident occurred in April and it is believed to have occurred in the Southern District,” the statement read.
The email did not indicate that the gun was fake and that the officer knew it was fake.
“The video looked bad at first,” Harrison said Friday, adding that he wanted to clarify that the gun was fake and that the officer had not committed any misconduct.
“I’m absolutely concerned about how our citizens think, and other officers,“ he said, “especially now that we know that is was nothing anything nefarious.”
The video shows a young man inside the unidentified convenience store lift up his jacket to expose and pat what appears to be a handgun on his hip. The camera then pans toward a uniformed police officer who watches.
“‘Front of the police and all that,” a man filming can heard saying. The camera then focuses on the officer’s gun, and the man filming says, “He got his gun; we got ours.”
The officer, who appears unfazed, shakes his head and responds: “You’re a clown.”
Harrison said Friday that investigators interviewed the man in the video May 7 and visited the store where the video was filmed. They found numerous toy guns for sale at the shop, Harrison said. The investigators determined the young man had pulled one from the shop and used it in his video.
In 2016, Baltimore banned the sale of replicas of weapons that could “reasonably be perceived to be a real firearm.” Harrison said that both the store owner and the police officer knew all along that it was a toy weapon, and police, during their investigation, took pictures of a number of toy guns for sale in the store.
The video comes as the city is experiencing another wave of gun violence. So far this year, there have been 114 homicides, more than at this point last year when 335 people eventually were killed. Police said Friday there have been 237 non-fatal shootings so far this year, compared with 201 at this time a year ago.
Mayor Brandon Scott, in a statement Friday, did not address the department’s handling of the video or its disclosure of the investigation but said officers have a difficult task dealing with gun violence.
“I am thankful for the women and men of the Baltimore Police Department who work hard to get illegal guns off our streets,” Scott said. “To date in 2021, our officers have recovered 786 illegal guns, a significant increase over this time last year.”
The video circulated in April, around the time Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby announced her office would continue to dismiss or not prosecute cases for a variety of crimes, including attempted drug distribution, prostitution, trespassing, open containers and minor traffic offenses. Her office had stopped taking these cases at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, and prosecutors have dismissed 1,400 criminal cases and a similar number of warrants.
The policy does not apply to gun-related charges.
The police union and other critics have blamed the ongoing federal consent decree, and city and police department leaders for instituting policies that don’t adequately address crime in the city. The union has complained that the department lacks enough officers to respond to the increasing violence this year.
“This is [Police Commissioner Michael] Harrison’s new crime plan since his recruitment plan has failed: just stop enforcing the law, problem solved! What could go wrong?” the union wrote on Twitter in late April.
“Patrol Division has lost 37 cops since 4/1/21,” the Tweet said.