A plainclothes Baltimore police officer shot and wounded a 13-year-old boy who ran from police Wednesday as he carried a BB-gun replica of a semiautomatic handgun on the first anniversary of rioting that swept west Baltimore, police officials said.
The teen is expected to survive wounds to his lower extremities, Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin Davis said at a news conference.
Two intelligence detectives were driving on a street and saw the teen walking with what looked like a handgun, and the officers approached him.
“They identified themselves as police officers to this young man, [and] the young man took off on foot with the gun in his hand,” Davis said.
The officers chased him for about 150 yards to the area of the unit block of Asquith Street where one of the officers fired. The gun mimics a Beretta semiautomatic pistol and Davis defended the officers’ actions.
“I put my own eyes on it. It’s an absolute, identical replica semiautomatic pistol,” Davis said. “Those police officers had no way of knowing that it was not an actual firearm.”
The officers “got out of their car and engaged a person who they believed they had a gun. Come on, this what we are supposed to do. That’s what cops do,” Davis said.
The commissioner said the teen’s mother told police he left home with a BB gun, but it is not clear where he was going with the gun or why he ran from police.
The shooting happened one year to the day that rioting spread across west Baltimore in response to the death of Freddie Gray while in police custody. The unrest led to burned businesses, buildings and police cars, widespread looting, and clashes with police and citywide curfews.
Wednesday’s incident occurred more than three miles from the epicenter of the riots. The area is east of downtown Baltimore.
“Today is an important day. It is not lost on me what April 27th means to this city what it means to this police department,” Davis said. “Anybody walking down the street with a real gun or a replica handgun in his or her hands poses a public safety threat to our community.”
The department’s newly formed Special Investigation Response Team is probing the shooting, Davis said.
The police shooting Wednesday in some aspects was reminiscent of the shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice in Cleveland in November 2014. A Cleveland police officer fatally shot Tamir, who was playing in a park with a replica gun. He died a day later. Tamir’s death was one of several incidents that led to an ongoing national discussion over the use of deadly force by police, especially among African Americans.