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Darcy Costello

Baltimore Sun

January 11, 2024

A Baltimore Police officer fired his weapon five times, striking a 37-year-old man in the leg Dec. 30, after the man emerged suddenly with a knife and what police described as a machete, according to body camera footage released by the department Thursday.

The shooting occurred on the upper floor of a building in Southwest Baltimore’s Carrollton Ridge neighborhood that police entered with a ballistic shield after an earlier encounter with the man. In the earlier interaction, officers say on the video that the man threw an object and some substance at them while they attempted to speak with him.

Court records show the man who was shot faces charges including attempted first- and second-degree murder and assault in Baltimore City District Court. The matter also is under internal investigation by Baltimore Police’s Special Investigation Response Team, or SIRT, which investigates the department’s most serious uses of force.

Baltimore Police identified the officer who fired his weapon as James Stokes, a nine-year veteran of the department.

According to police, two officers were responding to a burglary call around 9:15 a.m. when they saw a man naked on a corner. Charging documents say they followed him into an adjacent building on West Pratt Street because they were “concerned for the adult male’s mental health” and seeking to “further check the individual’s welfare.”

The two first engage him in a rear stairwell of the building, behind a convenience store also on the lower level. Court records suggest the address is also the man’s residence.

“Yo, brother,” the officer says from the bottom of the stairwell.

The man, apparently at the top, acknowledges him with a “yes, sir.”

The officer continues: “What you doing naked, man? What was you doing outside fully naked?”

The man responds with a comment that is difficult to discern from the footage, and the officer responds, “You gonna play with me, bro?” and starts up the stairs, before running back out amid crashing sounds.

Police say more than one object was thrown, along with a “substance” that officers on the video initially said they thought was feces but later speculated could be food.

The officers then call for back up, and wait to engage further until more officers and a ballistic shield arrive. The original officers can be heard requesting a medic and a “bunker” over the radio.

The group then starts up the stairwell in search of the man, periodically calling out, “Baltimore Police!”

At one point, an officer can be heard saying the man is “10-30,” code for a wanted person or vehicle.

After officers go up several flights and clear a few rooms, the man emerges suddenly. In body camera footage, he appears to hold two weapons and throws one at officers. The officers retreat down the stairs as one fires quickly in response, striking the man. He then goes back up to handcuff him.

Charging documents say the man was armed with a “large machete” and a “large fixed bladed knife” in each hand. It says he was “charging down the stairwell” at the officer who fired his weapon.

The documents also said that Stokes and the other officer rendered aid to the man following the shooting. He was taken to a hospital for treatment and evaluation, police said in a recorded statement included in the body camera footage, then to Central Booking.

Police said previously that an officer received a “minor wound” during the altercation and was treated at Mercy Medical Center. Police Commissioner Richard Worley praised the officers on the day of the shooting, saying the interaction was “intense” and officers did a “great job” trying to disarm the man and rendering aid after one officer shot him.

The man is scheduled to appear in court Jan. 22, according to online court records.

It’s not clear from the body camera footage whether police on the scene requested an officer with Crisis Intervention Team training and certification, or someone from the department’s Crisis Response Team. CIT-certified officers are trained to respond to calls for people in acute crisis, and have experience with de-escalation and community referrals.

Before reentering the stairwell, one of the officers says on video that the man was screaming “come in, come in” to officers, though that can’t be heard in the video. He also remarks to a fellow officer that the man was no longer naked.

At least two other police shootings took place in Baltimore Police’s Southwestern District in 2023: the fatal shooting of Hunter Jessup in November and the shooting of a 17-year-old teen from behind in May.

The shooting of Jessup is under investigation by the Attorney General’s Independent Investigations Division. Meanwhile, the city State’s Attorney announced in November that the officer who shot the 17-year-old in May would not face criminal charges.

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