BALTIMORE » A Baltimore police detective shot a 13-year-old boy in East Baltimore this afternoon who he wrongly believed was carrying a semiautomatic pistol, Police Commissioner Kevin Davis said.
The boy suffered what police called non-life-threatening injuries to a “lower extremity,” Davis said. The weapon turned out to be spring-air-powered BB gun — not a real firearm.
The incident, which came on the day city officials marked the one-year anniversary of the Freddie Gray riots, began when two plainclothes detectives assigned to the Police Department’s intelligence section were driving down the 1100 block of East Baltimore Street shortly after 4 p.m. today.
They spotted the boy with what appeared to be a firearm, Davis said, got out of their vehicle, identified themselves as officers and told him to stop.
The boy, whose name police did not release, began running, and the officers gave chase for about 150 yards, Davis said. Then one detective shot the boy, Davis said.
Police released a photograph that appeared to show a Daisy brand PowerLine Model 340 spring-air pistol.
After decades in law enforcement, Davis said, he might have mistaken it for a firearm.
“I looked at it myself today, I stood right over top of it, I put my own eyes on it,” he said. “It’s an absolute, identical replica semiautomatic pistol. Those police officers had no way of knowing that it was not, in fact, an actual firearm. It looks like a firearm.”
Blood was visible outside the McKim Community Center and basketball courts this evening.
The detectives were not injured, Davis said. Police did not release their names.
The incident recalled the death of Tamir Rice, the 12-year-old Cleveland boy who was shot by a police officer in November 2014 after he brandished a toy gun in a public park. The city of Cleveland agreed this week to pay $6 million to settle a federal lawsuit brought by Rice’s family.
The heavy police presence Wednesday drew neighbors to the scene. Some milled around, condemning what they described as more police brutality in the city.
Some noted that the shooting occurred on the day that Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake was hosting a “reconciliation” event in West Baltimore to mark the one-year anniversary of the riots that erupted on the day Gray was buried.
The 25-year-old Baltimore man died after suffering a severe spinal cord injury in police custody. Six officers have been charged in Gray’s arrest and death; all have pleaded not guilty.
Davis said the anniversary was “not lost” on him, either.
“The job of police officers here and elsewhere goes on,” he said. “Police officers don’t take days off. We’re constantly tasked with responding to the concerns of the community. Public safety never takes a day off.”
He noted a recent spike in homicides and nonfatal shootings in the city, and said officers are expected to confront people they believe are armed.
“The last 24, 48 hours, we’ve had a significant state of gun violence and homicides and nonfatal shootings in our city, so our police officers were doing exactly what we have asked them to do,” he said.
Since Sunday night, nine people in the city have been killed and seven others injured in shootings. The city has seen 360 homicides in the 12 months since.
Davis said the circumstances around the boy’s shooting — including whether he aimed the BB gun at the detectives, how far they were from the boy when he was shot, and how many times the detective fired — would all be investigated by the department’s Special Investigations Response Team.
“Investigating police-involved shootings is a sacred obligation to this Police Department,” he said. “We’re going to get it right.”
He also said that he had “no reason to believe that these officers acted inappropriately whatsoever at this moment.”
“They got out of their car and they engaged a person who had what looked like a gun in his hand,” he said. “I mean, come on. That’s what we’re supposed to do. That’s what cops do.
“When he ran — and the foot chase was a good 150 or so yards, he rounded a corner, kept running — he had every opportunity to drop the gun, had every opportunity to stop, put his hands in the air, comply with the instructions of the police officers.”
Davis said the boy’s mother was taken in for questioning. Davis said the mother, whose name police did not release, indicated to police that she knew her son had the BB gun.
Davis said people often commit crimes in Baltimore with replica guns — “It happens all the time” — and police take the items seriously.
Daisy describes the Powerline 340 pistol as “a spring-air pistol that features a 200-shot BB reservoir with a 13-shot Speedload Clip.”
“For hours of fun on the range and basic training for pistol shooters, Daisy’s PowerLine Model 340 pistol is appropriate for adults and those ages 16 and older with adult supervision,” the company says on its website.
In a video taken at the scene and obtained by The Baltimore Sun, Maj. Deron Garrity is seen speaking to the boy’s brother.
Garrity tells the brother the boy had a gun that looked real.
“No cop wants to shoot anybody,” Garrity says. “Nobody. But if somebody’s got a gun, how am I supposed to tell these officers, ‘Hey, make sure that he shoots you first, and then you can do it?’”
“But if he not pointing it at police, why do they got the right to shoot?” the young man asks.
“He did,” Garrity says.
Davis said officers have a dangerous and difficult job.
“No police officer in Baltimore wants to shoot a 13-year-old, but police officers here and elsewhere are charged by us, by our community, with going after bad guys with guns,” he said. “We can’t allow someone to walk down the street in broad daylight anywhere in Baltimore with what looks to be a semiautomatic pistol in their hand.”
Three of the nine people killed in the city since Sunday died Tuesday night, police said.
Asia Brockington, 24, was planning her wedding in June to Taylor Owings.
Their daughter was to be a flower girl. Dancing would be in Freedom Hall of Northeast Baltimore. They paid the deposit on the hall three days ago.
Brockington was killed Tuesday night while she and Owings took out the trash at their home near Patterson Park, Owings said.
“Some dude walked up, said ‘Don’t move,’” Owings said Wednesday in a home crowded with grieving family. “He shot her. Her shot her. … I saw her take her last breath.”