Baltimore police shot and killed a man they say fought with police before producing a gun in an East Baltimore housing project Wednesday night.
Deputy Commissioner Jerry Rodriguez said officers chased the man on foot into the 200 block of N. Spring Court, inside the Douglass Homes community, before 7 p.m. He was later pronounced dead at a hospital, and police could not immediately confirm his age or identity.
Rodriguez said officers from the department's special enforcement section were in the Douglass Homes area, working on "intelligence" they had gathered that led them to believe a suspect was about to commit a crime near or in a local business. Rodriguez declined to identify the business or describe how far away it was from where the chase ended.
Police pursued the man to the Douglass Homes courtyard, where he fought them as they tried to take him into custody, Rodriguez said. At some point, the man produced a handgun and, fearing for their lives, three officers shot him multiple times, Rodriguez said. No officers were injured, and Rodriguez said a weapon was recovered at the scene though he declined to describe it in detail.
Witnesses at the scene offered a different version of what happened once the man was inside the Douglass Homes courtyard, with the man holding a cellphone in his hand but not a gun, and the officers beating him while he lay on the ground before he was shot.
Melvin Williams, 70, said he watched from across the courtyard as several officers beat the man while he was face-down on the ground, then shoot him multiple times. He looked about 16 years old, Williams said.
"That was uncalled for," he said. "That was a kid."
Keith Hunter, a Douglass Homes resident, said he was taking out the trash when he saw part of the incident. Hunter, 55, said the man was standing in the courtyard with his hands up, with what looked like a cellphone in his hand, surrounded by police with their guns drawn. He said he backed away and did not see what happened next but heard gunshots soon after.
"It didn't look like a gun, I can tell you that much," Hunter said, describing what the man was holding.
Rodriguez said the three officers involved will be placed on routine administrative duty and the shooting will be investigated internally. He said based on preliminary information, it appeared the officers were justified in using deadly force.
The man was "violent, armed ... looking to do harm to the local citizens here," Rodriguez said. "One can only guess what that person would do if they confronted a citizen who can't defend themselves, so I'm proud of the work done by the officers."
Large crowds, including children who said they saw the shooting, gathered along North Caroline Street as police collected evidence at the scene.
Before Wednesday's police-involved shooting, 13 people had been shot — four of them fatally — by Baltimore police in 11 incidents this year.