ATF agents conducting an undercover operation Friday afternoon in West Baltimore shot an armed man who approached their vehicle in an apparent robbery attempt, police said.
The shooting occurred about 3 p.m. in the 2700 block of W. Baltimore St. when two armed men approached three agents for the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives who were in a pickup truck, police said.
The man who was shot was taken to an area hospital for surgery, while a second man managed to flee.
Police displayed a photo of a weapon they say was recovered from the scene, which Police Commissioner Kevin Davis referred to as a "Dirty Harry"-style revolver "that can do a lot of damage."
"Fearing for their lives seeing two armed gunmen aiming guns in their direction, [the agents] discharged their firearms," Davis said.
Anthony Bushrod, 52, said he was walking back from a nearby store when a white SUV quickly drove into the area. He said he immediately hit the ground when he heard the shots.
"That could've been me," he said.
Benjamin Leach, 66, said he was helping his 87-year-old father out of his vehicle after returning from a doctor's appointment when he also saw the white SUV barrel down the street and make a sharp turn, nearly hitting a tree.
"I heard, 'Stop, stop!' and then they just started shooting," Leach said. "It was crazy, like the OK Corral."
There was no white SUV present at the crime scene. Asked about the witness accounts regarding the vehicle, Davis said he didn't know about the vehicle but that investigators would "do our very best to find out."
ATF spokesman David Cheplak later confirmed that the vehicle was a "cover react team" vehicle for the agency that moved in quickly when they saw the armed men approaching the undercover agents. He said he could not say whether the undercover officers in the pickup or the agents in the SUV had fired.
Asked why the vehicle did not remain at the scene so it could be documented as part of the investigation, Cheplak said it was standard procedure to remove agents involved in a shooting from a scene as quickly as possible. He said a decision was made that the SUV was the appropriate vehicle to take them away in.
The identity of the man who was shot was not released. No description was provided of the second man.
Baltimore police were leading the criminal investigation into the shooting, while the ATF will conduct its own review of whether protocols were followed.
A short time after the shooting occurred, an activist with the Baltimore Bloc group was taken into custody as he stood on the outskirts of the crime scene, according to witnesses. Police said they did not immediately have information about the arrest.