A fatal encounter in Westminster on Monday morning was notable not only for the seriousness of the outcome, but also for how infrequently such incidents occur in Carroll County.
A Maryland State Police trooper from the Westminster Barrack — identified by state police on Wednesday as Trooper First Class Tyler Michael — fatally shot a 34-year-old Westminster man, Michael J. D’Angelo, after D’Angelo allegedly stabbed the trooper in the side, police say.
Before Monday, the most recent shooting involving a law enforcement officer in Carroll County — as best State’s Attorney Brian DeLeonardo can recall — took place in 2012.
On Christmas Day in 2012, an officer from the Taneytown Police Department shot a man multiple times after the man refused orders to drop a hammer he was holding and surrender to police.
Friends and family of the man held a memorial in his honor after his death and questioned why police had used deadly force against him. A grand jury investigative inquiry and a State’s Attorney’s Office review found the officer was in full compliance with the law, according to Times coverage at the time.
In Mount Airy in July 2017, two Howard County Police Department officers fired at a vehicle that had rammed a police vehicle and driven toward officers. The incident did not occur on the Carroll side of the town.
A crime analyst with the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office had not responded to a request for data about police-involved shootings in Carroll as of 7 p.m. Tuesday.
DeLeonardo said Tuesday that in any shooting case, the role of the State’s Attorney’s Office is to review the investigation and determine what, if anything, should be done going forward.
“Our role is, essentially, to decide ultimately whether the shooting was legally justified. If it is, we close the case. If not, we would have to pursue any other steps,” he said.
The homicide unit of the Maryland State Police is investigating the shooting and will deliver a report to the State’s Attorney’s Office.
Sgt. Brandon Holland, director of the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office Training Academy, said the fact that the previous shooting involving law enforcement in Carroll was several years ago “should say a little about the training that we’re giving officers in Carroll.”
Use of force
Maryland law requires that police training include “special training, attention to, and study of the application of antidiscrimination and use of force de-escalation training.” The reasons police may legally use force are to effectuate an arrest, prevent an escape, protect someone else or protect themselves, Holland said.
Deadly force, he said, is the highest level of force that can be used.
In the Sheriff’s Office Training Academy, recruits get 88 hours of training on use of force, plus 130 more on defensive tactics, though other training academies are slightly different, he said.
Holland said he had not reviewed the investigation of what had occurred Monday and could not comment on the use of force in that specific instance.
He said that when members of the public hear about a shooting involving law enforcement, he asks them to consider that they have much more time to make a decision than an officer faced with a potentially threatening situation.
“What we hear the most is ‘Why wouldn’t the officer use a Taser?’ At the time the officer didn’t feel like the Taser was his best tool. … They had to make that decision in a second, maybe two seconds, where we have multiple conversations, [and] minutes to think about it.”
The Westminster Police Department continues to investigate dozens of reports of malicious destruction of property incidents to vehicles from about 8 p.m. March 9 and 7 a.m. March 11. Chief Thomas Ledwell told the Westminster Mayor and Common Council on Monday there had been 33 reports as of that evening.
Lt. Jeffrey Schuster of the Westminster Police Department said police are analyzing surveillance video to identify a suspect.
Reports of damaged vehicles
Westminster police received additional reports of damage Tuesday, but all of the damage had occurred in the same time frame as previous reports, Schuster said. He could not speak to any reports state police might have received.
It is still unknown if the damage to vehicles is related to the man shot by the trooper Monday morning, Schuster said.
Art McGuire, 72, who’s lived on Washington Road for 24 years, was loading his truck for a day’s work, not far from the intersection police had cordoned off, where he saw five state troopers on Washington Road.
Subsequently, he noticed a flat tire on his year-old van. He said he thought, “How’d I get a flat, I haven’t moved it in two weeks?” When he looked closer he found two puncture marks. On Tuesday it was propped up on a jack, the punctured tire lifted off the ground.
Larry Reid, 73, a retired Baltimore city officer and former deputy sheriff of Carroll County, lives a few houses down from McGuire on Washington Road.
Four of Reid’s vehicles had slashed tires.
Reid said his son, who lives in Taneytown, had spent the night. His son’s car was one of three that had tires punctured overnight.
Reid said he went to retrieve his Dodge Challenger for his son to drive to work. He left the Challenger at the end of his driveway closest to Washington Road at about 8 a.m. Within 15 minutes, he said, its tires had been slashed, too.
He drove down the road in a different vehicle, and found the trooper, who would later be stabbed, talking to another resident whose tires were slashed.
A preliminary investigation found that the trooper had been responding to a report of vehicle damage, according to Maryland State Police spokesman Greg Shipley. A second person who reported their tires were slashed gave the trooper a description of a white man carrying a blade.
State police have not identified the trooper who shot D’Angelo, though he has been placed on administrative leave — standard protocol for such an incident, according to state police.
Jim Erb, 70, has lived in his home on Washington Road since 1989. He runs his real estate business from his house, so he’s usually home most of the day.
“I’ve always been the type to keep an eye on things,” he said.
At 5:30 a.m. Monday, he went out to retrieve his newspaper. He didn’t notice anything abnormal about his vehicle then.
But later in the morning he went out to find his blue Ford Ranger pickup had a flat.
He said he called the Westminster Barrack of the Maryland State Police at about 7:45 a.m. about his punctured tire. The person he spoke to was polite, but said they were very busy.
Moments after the phone call, multiple police vehicles zoomed past his house.
Times reporter Alex Mann contributed reporting from Washington Road.