BALTIMORE (AP) — In a tragic event in Baltimore on Thursday, a police officer critically wounded a teenage boy, who was allegedly carrying a firearm, during a foot chase. The officer shot the teen after multiple commands to drop the gun were ignored, according to authorities.
Community Response and Official Statement
The incident has stirred up community anger in West Baltimore, with residents demanding answers and transparency from the police, a reaction familiar in a city with a history of controversial police conduct, despite ongoing reform efforts.
The officer initially engaged with the 17-year-old because he appeared to be armed, Baltimore Police Deputy Commissioner Richard Worley explained in a press conference. The teenager ran, leading the officer on a chase through multiple alleys, Worley noted.
Officer’s Reaction to Perceived Threat
Despite repeated commands to drop his weapon, the teen reportedly kept running with the gun in his hand, leading the officer to fire multiple shots, striking the teenager in his upper body, according to the police statement. Officials did not specify the number of shots fired or the exact type of firearm carried by the teenager, which reportedly had an extended magazine.
Questions Around the Circumstances of the Shooting
In response to queries about whether the teenager had ever pointed the firearm at the police, Worley mentioned that the body-camera footage of the incident is under review. Further details, including whether the teen was shot in the back, were not disclosed.
Reactions from Baltimore Mayor and Community Members
Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott, present at the scene, expressed his sympathy for all parties involved and assured the community that a thorough investigation will be conducted. He also reiterated the city’s commitment to combatting gun violence.
The officer involved is part of the Baltimore Police Department’s District Action Team, a unit that specializes in proactive patrols and warrants apprehensions in areas with high gun violence. Officials revealed that the officer was chatting with a resident when he noticed the teen.
Witness Accounts and Aftermath of the Shooting
The shooting occurred near a bustling shopping center in predominantly Black west Baltimore. Local resident Brittany Adams, 26, recalled hearing gunshots and discovering a young man lying on the ground with a bullet wound in his back, surrounded by police. She described how the delay in the arrival of an ambulance and the sight of more police officers arriving at the scene agitated the growing crowd of onlookers.
Adams also mentioned the lockdown of her son’s nearby school, a standard protocol in response to neighborhood shootings. In a sobering remark, she said, “This is Baltimore City, baby. Stuff like this happens every day,”
James Thomas, 43, another witness at the scene, described the chaotic scene as police attempted to control the crowd. He confirmed that the gunshot victim was conscious and breathing at the scene. Later, officials reported the teen’s condition as critical.
Baltimore Police Reforms and Community Trust
Praise for the Baltimore police department has been scarce despite significant reforms under a 2017 federal consent decree. The decree, which mandates changes to eliminate unconstitutional policing practices and build community trust, was established after the U.S. Justice Department found patterns of excessive force, unlawful arrests, and discriminatory policing.
This DOJ investigation was initiated after Freddie Gray’s 2015 death in police custody. Subsequently, the Gun Trace Task Force scandal revealed corruption within an elite police unit, resulting in lawsuits costing the city over $22 million.
Despite these reforms, city leaders still face challenges with proactive policing, arrest numbers, racial profiling, and more. Residents and city council members often complain that officers do not engage enough with the communities they patrol.
At the scene of Thursday’s shooting, Baltimore police leaders faced heckling from residents as they headed toward the press area.
Challenging Perceptions of Policing
Despite the tumultuous background of policing in Baltimore, a recent review found that officers are less likely to use force against the public now than before the consent decree. This positive trend, however, is overshadowed by incidents like Thursday’s shooting, which rekindle the community’s long-standing frustrations and fears.
The Unending Struggle with Gun Violence
Mayor Scott emphasized the city’s commitment to getting illegal guns off the streets in his statements at the scene. He made it clear that the city would not tolerate open carry of firearms, hinting at the broader issue of gun violence that Baltimore grapples with daily.
Residents Demand Transparency and Accountability
The incident has left residents feeling angry and demanding transparency. They questioned the necessity of the shooting and are expecting a thorough investigation into the incident. The gathered crowd expressed their outrage, demanding to know why the teenager was shot.
The Path Forward
In the aftermath of this event, it is clear that the city’s troubled history with policing continues to cast a long shadow over its reform efforts. The challenge for Baltimore’s leaders and its police department remains to build trust, promote transparency, and engage proactively with communities while ensuring public safety. As the investigation into this shooting continues, these goals will be more important than ever.
A City in Search of Healing
The incident is a stark reminder of the tensions between the police and the communities they serve in Baltimore. As the city looks to heal and move forward, the relationship between the police and the residents they protect is crucial. The ongoing investigation into the shooting will be a test of the city’s commitment to transparency, accountability, and justice.