A city cop shot a man last night and so the Baltimore Police Department staged a press conference this morning to explain their position.
The department does this regularly after big arrests, major drug busts, and the like. The typical scenario is that five or six big TV cameras and their operators crowd into the small room and the reporters stand behind the cameras or sit on the several chairs lined along one wall. Police brass enter from stage right, the ranking person addresses the scrum from behind a lectern, and then he or she takes very few questions before a press officer announces that it's over and the whole group files out through the heavy wood door they came through.
Today was different: Before the press conference started, Commissioner Anthony Batts, dressed in a suit, took up a position (with a couple of his aids) behind the cameras. "I want to feel like what it feels like to be a reporter," he quipped, shaking a few reporters' hands. "I'm gonna even ask questions."
He did not ask any, as it turns out. Which is too bad. I would have liked to have heard his questions—especially the ones that come after "Is my officer uninjured?" and "Are the suspects in custody?"
The answer to both those questions is yes.
How and why did it happen? Well, police say, you can just imagine.
Deputy Chief Jerry Rodriguez, who oversees Internal Affairs, says police were patrolling in the Northwest District last night when, at 9:05 p.m., they spotted a van driving without headlights on the 4400 block of Reisterstown Road. Police tried to do a traffic stop, but the van sped away and soon after crashed "near a senior citizens residence." Three people ran from the van, one of whom was a juvenile. Cops gave chase on foot, caught one adult suspect, caught the juvenile "with a minor use of force"—i.e. a stun gun. The third suspect, Rodriguez says, is "an individual who we know has a long and violent past," including arrests for drugs and guns. That man, who Rodriguez says is 6 feet 2 inches tall and weighs 235 pounds, turned on the pursuing officer, who Rodrigez says is a female and much smaller. Rodriguez says there was "a physical altercation which resulted in the officer discharging her weapon."
The man was hit in the abdomen and fled; police found him hiding on the porch of an abandoned house. He is in stable condition.
"We have witnesses," Rodriguez says. "We have video."
He identified none of the suspects by name. He identified none of the police officers.
A reporter asks Rodriguez to detail the physical encounter. Rodriguez, whose job is overseeing Internal Affairs, which investigates police shootings to make sure the police are not lying about anything and that they shot the assailant according to the rules and laws governing police use of force, says he does not have the details because his division has not yet interviewed the police officer.
"An officer is allowed to use their service weapon as a last resort . . . in immediate defense of their life," Rodriguez says, in part. "For an officer to determine that this is my last option, well, you could just imagine."