Body-worn camera footage released on Wednesday showed an incident in which Baltimore police officers shot a man.
The video (Warning: Graphic) from two body cameras shows a Nov. 25 incident in which police shot a man wielding two knives at the corner of 33rd and Greenmount Ave. in Waverly.
Following a 911 call in which a woman reported that the man was “getting up in people’s face,” the footage shows the dramatic scene that played out when police arrived and found the man under a theater marquee. Police officers surrounded the man and order him to drop the knives, 10 times in total. At one point, he said, “I’ve got one life to live and I’m ready to give it.”
One officer moved in and told the man he was going to deploy a Taser. He then did, but police said it had no effect. At about that same time, officers fired two gunshots, which missed the man. The 48-year-old man dressed in black then begins to move back-and-forth with a knife in each outstretched hand, shouting. Officers Gary Brown and Supreme Jones then fired the shots that wound the man. He fell to the ground, and blood was visible on the sidewalk.
The edited video cuts to another segment where the officers, including one who is wearing a body camera, are acting to revive the man. “Keep breathing, buddy,” the officer said. The man is still in treatment at a hospital, but is in stable condition, police spokesman T.J. Smith said Wednesday.
Police said the man has a history of mental illness. That led Davis to a larger question.
“How is someone who is apparently suffering from a mental health crisis out like that?” Davis asked. “Where along the line, outside of law enforcement, has the person been failed?”
The footage is the first to be released that shows an officer using force since Baltimore began outfitting 600 police officers with body cameras in June. That followed a pilot and bidding process by city government. Cameras are slated to be phased in by 2018. At a time when citizen videos that have challenged police narratives of incidents in which people died, like that of Freddie Gray in Baltimore, body-worn cameras are seen as a way to provide a view of what happened. When police have footage, Police Commissioner Kevin Davis said they will share it.
“With transparency comes responsibility, and it’s our responsibility to identify critical incidents like this, particularly when deadly force is used, and to share it with our community,” Davis said Wednesday.
While the video largely confirms the description of the incident given by police, questions remain about the officers’ actions. Reporters asked, for instance, whether police should’ve fired and gun and Taser at the same time, but Deputy Commissioner Jason Johnson was unwilling to make any pronouncements until the investigation into the incident is complete.
“It’s very tempting to take a video and in and of itself draw a lot of conclusions from just the video. The video is merely part of the investigation that includes a lot of things,” he said.
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