The Baltimore police this afternoon released body camera footage from Friday morning's shooting at Greenmount Avenue and 33rd Street where police officers Gary Brown and Supreme Jones shot a man who was armed with two knives.
"With transparency comes responsibility," Commissioner Kevin Davis said. "I want to meet our transparency commitment to the community," noting that transparency has already "improved police-community relationships."
The situation began on Friday, Nov. 25, around 9:30 a.m. and there were ultimately five officers on the scene, with two of the officers wearing body-worn cameras. The excerpted footage shows the moments before the shooting as officers tell the man to put the knives down many times, the use of a Taser/shooting itself, and the aftermath where the man is handcuffed and quickly tended to by officers, including, Supreme Jones, one of the officers who shot him, Chief of Media Relations for Baltimore Police T.J. Smith noted.
You watch the body camera footage released by police here.
As is often the case when body camera footage is revealed, it gives those who view it a chance to comprehend something resembling the sense of chaos the officers are in when they must make, Davis stressed, "split-second decisions," but also a chance to do some Monday morning quarterback-ing about what could have been done differently by police. Davis stressed that the camera is "a limited perspective" and that "video is but one element of the investigation."
Whether or not the Tasers ever struck the man or if they struck him and just didn't have an effect is unclear. Just as Davis said on Friday, today Deputy Commissioner Jason Johnson only said the Tasers had "no discernible effect" on the man. Smith noted that in the winter, as people wear more clothing, Tasers will be "less effective," so it's possible that Tasers did not work if they did strike the man.
In the video it's also clear that a Taser was fired at pretty much the same time that another officer fires his gun at the man, which does confound the de-escalation narrative (that the Taser and gun were used almost simultaneously explains why some witnesses told reporters that no Tasers were used). Johnson himself noted that the Taser and shots fired in "fairly close succession," and earlier in the press conference Taser.
And precisely how long the incident was, from arrival of the first cops to the first shots fired—crucial to fully understanding de-escalation—is unclear.
The man was characterized on Friday as "threatening" people, while at today's press conference he was described as "harassing," people at the corner. In the 911 call, which was also played, the caller tells the dispatcher that the man had not pulled the knives out on anybody.
You can hear the man in the video yell, "I've got one life to live and I'm ready to give it, I did my job."
Smith said that the man, who has still not been publicly identified, had a history of mental illness and had attempted suicide before. He also mentioned Monday's incident at Ohio State University as an example of "how quickly" someone can "get up on you." Davis noted that the man was "apparently suffering from a mental health crisis," and asked, "Where along the line, out side of law enforcement has [he] been failed?"
Moreover, the video does not necessarily quell frustration. There are still questions about whether or not somebody who was not armed with a gun needed to be shot, and because the officers missed before hitting the man, whether or not bullets being fired in a busy Baltimore intersection is safer than a man wielding a knife, surrounded by police.
A reporter at the press conference asked Smith if the officers were equipped with other less lethal means. Smith said they are, but noted that this would move officers into a hand-to-hand combat with the man, which would be unsafe and "the Taser is the one you can use with distance."
This is the first time body camera footage has been released since implementation of body-worn cameras went into effect in June (about 600 officers currently have body cameras) and the first time a police shooting has been captured.
The man, who is 48 years old and lives with family in Baltimore, police said, is still in the hospital but in stable condition.