BALTIMORE » Baltimore County police on Friday released a surveillance video that shows a drug suspect aggressively moving toward an officer with his gun drawn moments before the officer fired, killing the man.
Baltimore County Police Chief Jim Johnson showed the video, which is less than a minute long and was taken from a business’ surveillance camera, to reporters Friday afternoon.
The video shows part of Wednesday’s incident that took place in Reisterstown, about 25 miles northwest of Baltimore. The officer, whom police identified only as Officer Earomirski, is seen pointing his gun at 19-year-old Keith Harrison McLeod. McLeod is seen moving quickly toward the officer then reaching behind his back before swinging his arm forward and pointing toward the officer, who then fires his gun.
McLeod falls to the ground, and Earomirski can be seen approaching him, his weapon still drawn. McLeod can be seen on the video writhing and kicking on the ground and resisting Earomirski, who is seen patting down the man’s waist area as if searching for a weapon. No weapon was recovered at the scene, police said, but Johnson said Friday it was clear the officer feared for his life when he made the "one-second decision."
"He whips his right arm around, directly points his hand at the officer and brings his left hand up as to support the right in a ready gun position," Johnson said of McLeod. "That movement was less than one second. That officer had less than one second to determine what to do to save his own life."
Johnson said that McLeod was trying to purchase narcotic cough medicine at a pharmacy just before 5 p.m. Wednesday when the pharmacist recognized that the prescription he was using was forged. The pharmacist called the police, and Officer Earomirski responded, Johnson said. When the officer approached McLeod, the man began to run and Earomirski chased him, ultimately cornering him in a nearby alley. Johnson said Earomirski drew his weapon and said repeatedly, "you don’t want to do this." In response, Johnson said McLeod cursed at the officer and told him, "I’m going to kill you, I’m going to kill you."
Police said the officer, who is white, fired three rounds, and that McLeod, who was black, was struck in the upper torso and the leg.
"Any reasonable officer or citizen encountering this situation would feel that they were facing imminent harm and/or death," Johnson said Friday, adding that Earomirski, whom he described as "one of his finest officers," has been placed on administrative duty.
Earomirski could not be reached for comment on Friday. Johnson said McLeod’s family has reached out to an attorney, but did not say whether they have filed a lawsuit against the department.
Johnson said each police shooting undergoes a thorough review.
"We don’t just look at every shooting," he said, "we look at every shot fired."
Baltimore County recently announced a program to equip all 1,435 officers in its department with body cameras, a decision Johnson said utilizes "the right tool at the right time."
"This footage stresses the importance of capturing images on film," he said.