BALTIMORE — A Baltimore police officer sitting in his patrol car shot and critically wounded a man who came up to him pointing a 9mm handgun, police said Sunday.
Police Commissioner Kevin Davis called the incident an attempted "suicide by cop." When other officers and EMTs arrived on the scene in Northwest Baltimore, Davis said, the suspect told them multiple times: "He should have finished me off."
The shooting, which occurred about 9:30 a.m., is the third in five days involving a Baltimore police officer. It follows the shooting of a teenage boy running from police with a BB gun on Wednesday and the shooting of a 25-year-old man who appeared to have a bomb outside a television station.
In Sunday's incident, the officer "perceived he was being ambushed," Davis said. "Which is a really scary thing in police work, and it's not the first time an American police officer in the last year or so has been ambushed."
Police said the officer, who was not identified, was sitting in his car writing reports in an alley off Ulman Avenue, between Reisterstown Road and Park Heights Avenue. Seeing the man pointing the gun at him, the officer fired through his closed driver-side window, shattering the glass and hitting the man several times in the upper body, police said.
The suspect, who has not been identified by police, was alert and conscious when taken to hospital but was in critical condition, police said. The suspect's gun turned out to be unloaded.
"I'm just in shock that someone would have a gun and do that, and early on a Sunday morning," said City Councilwoman Sharon Green Middleton, who represents the Park Heights area where the shooting occurred.
"It's another example of the problems we have with guns and how easy it is to obtain a gun on the street," she said. "I continue to pray for our officers that put their jobs on the line every day, and I pray for the family of this person that did this particular act."
Police spokesman Donny Moses said charges are pending against the man who was shot. He was carrying no identification, Moses said, and police were trying to identify him.
Commissioner Davis described the officer as in his 20s and said he is regularly assigned to the area. The officer wasn't injured.
The man was the seventh person shot by city police this year. All but one of the shootings have happened since March 31. At the same time last year, police had shot four people.
On Wednesday, a city police detective shot a teen-aged boy in East Baltimore who he believed was carrying a semiautomatic pistol. It turned out to be a BB gun. On Thursday, police shot a 25-year-old man wearing an animal costume and what appeared to be an explosive device outside the Fox 45 station on W. 41st St. The device turned out to be chocolate bars and wire.
On Sunday, both the boy and the man remained hospitalized. Dedric Colvin, whose family says he is 14 and police say is 13, was listed in good condition, and Alex Brizzi, the 25-year-old, was in serious but stable condition, police said.
Davis said Saturday the teenager would not be charged, but Brizzi faces several charges, including arson, related to the incident in which his car burned outside the TV station, which was evacuated after he entered the lobby and gave a flash drive with video warning of the end of the world to a security guard. Brizzi was shot after exiting the lobby and refusing to follow orders to remove his hand from his pocket, police said.
The Rev. Cortly "C.D." Witherspoon Sr., who has worked in Park Heights and is president of Baltimore's chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, said police-involved shootings strain the trust between police and the community, no matter the circumstances.
"This is not helping the situation in terms of improving police and community relationships," he said. "With this one-year anniversary of Freddie Gray's death, we as a community must find a way to improve police-community relationships. These shootings of African-American men are not going to help to bridge the broken relationships between the community and the police."
Gray died on April 19 last year from spinal injuries sustained in police custody.
In recent years, Middleton said, residents have made strides in trying to improve the neighborhood near Sunday's shooting, which she called a "constant drug area."
A nearby park on Pall Mall Road and Shirley Avenue was reclaimed from drug dealers by the community recently, she said, and neighbors are attempting to clean it up and restore its historic stage and brickwork.
"Park Heights has its problems, but it's wonderful people there that still have hope and care about their community," Middleton said.
Rock Ware, who owns a mobile car washing and detailing business that typically sets up in the area where the shooting occurred, said he would have been in that spot if it had not been raining on Sunday. He said he was shaken by the incident.
"It's always something around here," Ware said. "I'm getting scared to come around here."
Not 10 days before, a man was killed and another man injured in a shooting two blocks from Sunday's incident. Nathan Walker, 25, was killed April 22 in the 3400 block of Reisterstown Road.
Willie Flowers, executive director of the Park Heights Community Health Alliance, which offers fresh food, health consumer advocacy and other services, said he was shocked by the police shooting.
Flowers said his organization isn't licensed for mental health services but offers yoga, tai chi and meditation training. All are in high demand in Park Heights, he said.
"There's obviously a need for greater access to mental health programming as early as possible," he said. "There's consistent treatment for drug addiction, but the mental health thing is stigmatized. There should be some level of outreach that guides people to mental health services."
Perhaps, Flowers said, the police and community could partner to help guide people toward such help.
"Hopefully the good that comes out of it is that the police and community can be more partners on the front end, so all the [mental health] programs can come together to see where everybody has strengths," he said.
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