‘It was sense­less’: Rel­a­tives ques­tion po­lice shoot­ing

Bal­ti­more County po­lice ID of­fi­cer in­volved in Es­sex death

Baltimore Sun - - NEWS - By Wil­born P. No­bles III

A park­ing lot dis­agree­ment over a fender ben­der pre­ceded a call to Bal­ti­more County po­lice, who sub­se­quently shot and killed a 29-year-old Owings Mills man on May 16, ac­cord­ing to fam­ily who wit­nessed the event.

Robert John­son Jr. was cel­e­brat­ing his cousin’s 15th birth­day at the Cove Vil­lage Town­homes in Es­sex, when John­son dented a neigh­bor’s ve­hi­cle while try­ing to park. John­son told the man he would pay for re­pairs, rel­a­tives said, but the dis­cus­sion be­came ar­gu­men­ta­tive. The neigh­bor even­tu­ally called po­lice, re­port­ing that John­son was armed.

Ac­cord­ing to po­lice, of­fi­cers were re­spond­ing to a 911 call about “a nui­sance re­lated to a large crowd of peo­ple” at the com­plex. The depart­ment said the crowd had “mostly dis­persed” by the time po­lice ar­rived.

The depart­ment’s ini­tial re­lease on the in­ci­dent stated “the first ar­riv­ing of­fi­cer was con­fronted with an armed sus­pect and dis­charged his weapon.”

John­son died af­ter he was taken to the hospi­tal.

The depart­ment later said an of­fi­cer had ap­proached John­son’s car, and when John­son ex­ited his ve­hi­cle a “gun fell to the ground in plain view of the of­fi­cer,” ac­cord­ing to Of­fi­cer Jen­nifer Peach, a county po­lice spokes­woman.

On Fri­day, the depart­ment iden­ti­fied the of­fi­cer in­volved in the shoot­ing as Po­lice Of­fi­cer First Class Knight, a 24-year vet­eran as­signed to the Es­sex Precinct with no prior of­fi­cer-in­volved shoot­ings. The depart­ment typ­i­cally does not pro­vide first names of of­fi­cers, cit­ing an agree­ment with the po­lice union.

Knight is on ad­min­is­tra­tive leave. Fred­die Jack­son, John­son’s 20-year-old brother, also was shot, and po­lice said he was re­leased from the hospi­tal this week.

John­son’s rel­a­tives are call­ing the shoot­ing un­nec­es­sary.

Alexis Jack­son, a cousin of John­son’s, said John­son’s car was parked roughly 150 feet away from her home when an of­fi­cer drove into the park­ing lot and ap­proached him Satur­day night. Jack­son’s mother, LaK­isha Chase, said she and other chil­dren were out­side as John­son ex­ited the car with his hands up.

Jack­son, who was out­side when of­fi­cers ap­proached John­son, said shots were fired as soon as she heard John­son’s gun hit the pave­ment. John­son ran to­ward the house be­fore he was shot and fell in front of a neigh­bor’s home, Jack­son said.

Of­fi­cers re­cov­ered a gun at the scene, Peach said, and have body cam­era footage from the con­fronta­tion. The depart­ment has de­clined to re­lease the footage.

“It was sense­less,” Chase said. “They didn’t have to shoot him like that.”

John­son’s younger brother, mean­while, was in­side their home with sev­eral chil­dren who watched the in­ci­dent from their front win­dow, rel­a­tives said. Fred­die Jack­son was try­ing to es­cort the chil­dren up­stairs when one of Knight’s bul­lets pierced the door frame and hit the 20-year-old in the leg, rel­a­tives said. The chil­dren car­ried the man up­stairs and ap­plied a tourni­quet to his leg us­ing a T-shirt, Chase said.

Chase and Jack­son de­scribed John­son as a “fun” fa­ther-to-be whose “code” was “fam­ily first.” The fam­ily said John­son had a prior crim­i­nal record. They asked why po­lice im­me­di­ately used a gun rather than a stun gun.

“He wasn’t even a threat, he dropped the gun,” Jack­son said. “Y’all shot where kids were around. Y’all didn’t go by the pro­to­col and the right pro­ce­dures. They just got out of their car and started shoot­ing.”

The rel­a­tives said they have hired a lawyer.

Po­lice usu­ally do not com­ment on ac­tive in­ves­ti­ga­tions, but Sgt. Vickie Ware­hime, a spokes­woman for the depart­ment, said po­lice iden­ti­fied Knight be­cause he was the only of­fi­cer who fired his weapon.

“As we con­tinue to in­ves­ti­gate, we still have our in­for­ma­tion to com­pile along with a re­view by the State’s At­tor­ney’s Of­fice,” Ware­hime said Fri­day.

The in­ci­dent marks the lat­est in­ci­dent of of­fi­cer-in­volved deaths in the county. In Jan­uary, po­lice opened an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into an in­ci­dent in­volv­ing of­fi­cers and Gamel An­to­nio Brown, who died af­ter of­fi­cers used a Taser stun gun on him. Po­lice said he went into car­diac ar­rest af­ter he was taken to a hospi­tal.

The depart­ment also is re­view­ing the fa­tal shoot­ing of Eric Sopp dur­ing a traf­fic stop last Novem­ber. Of­fi­cers also shot and killed 24-year-old Emanuel David Oates at a Ran­dall­stown gro­cery store Fe­bru­aryv 2019 af­ter he pulled out a ma­chete, caus­ing the of­fi­cers to draw their weapons.

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