The discourse surrounding proper law enforcement in African-American communities was rekindled Thursday morning as news spread of an officer-involved shooting in East Baltimore — on the anniversary of Freddie Gray’s funeral.
A city police officer shot a teen who was carrying a fake handgun Wednesday afternoon following a brief foot chase near Aisquith Street and East Baltimore Street, authorities said. The teen’s injuries aren’t considered life-threatening.
Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin Davis said two plainclothes detectives assigned to the department’s intelligence section had been driving down the street in an unmarked police car when they spotted the young person with what looked like a Beretta 92FS semi-automatic pistol and identified themselves as police officers.
“It’s a replica semi-automatic pistol, and I looked at it myself today. I stood right over top of it. I put my own eyes on it. It’s an absolute identical replica semi-automatic pistol,” Davis said during a news conference later that day. “Those police officers had no way of knowing that it was not, in fact, an actual firearm. It looks like a firearm.”
The teenager took off running, leading to a 150-plus yard chase that ended with one of the officers discharging his weapon, he said. The boy was taken to an area hospital for injuries to a “lower extremity,” according to police.
Volanda Young, the boy’s mother, identified her son to the Baltimore Sun as Dedric Colvin, a 14-year-old in the eighth grade, and said he left their home with a BB gun. Police said he is 13.
“He gets good grades. My son is a good kid,” Young told the local newspaper. “I know he was scared. They shot at him while he was fleeing.”
A video recorded on-site shortly after the shooting, obtained by The Sun, shows Maj. Deron Garrity telling the injured teen’s older brother, Alvin Colvin, that the detectives thought the gun was real.
“I’m looking at you man-to-man, nobody wants to do that [shoot an unarmed person]. OK? Your little brother had a gun,” he said. “I’m telling you right now that gun looked 100 percent real, a thousand percent real. That’s what I’m trying to tell you.”
Garrity asked how he could possibly tell his officers to “make sure he shoots you first.”
“But if he’s not pointing it at the police, why do they have the right to shoot?” Alvin Colvin asked.
Investigators from the department’s Special Investigation Response Team were called to the scene to look into the circumstances surrounding the incident. The Baltimore Police Department swiftly shared a picture of the replica handgun on its Facebook page.
At this point, Davis said, he has no reason to think that the officers acted inappropriately in any way.
The shooting occurred one year after the highly publicized funeral for Gray, a 25-year-old man who died of a spinal cord injury while in police custody in Baltimore, and subsequent riots, which ultimately led to a state of emergency and the National Guard being called into the city.
Davis said he cannot wrap his head around why the teen would leave his home with a replica pistol in his hand, and said that no Baltimore officer wants to shoot a 13-year-old.
“It’s a 13-year-old young man. That’s not lost on me whatsoever,” Davis said. “Why this young man chose to leave his home with a replica semi-automatic pistol in his hand, I don’t know. Why this young man chose to flee on foot when he was approached by two Baltimore police officers, I don’t know. Why the young man chose not to drop the gun and comply with the officers demands to stop, I don’t know that either.”
This is certainly not the first time an officer has mistaken a BB gun or replica pistol for an actual firearm. The shooting of Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old who was playing with an airsoft replica in Cleveland, was one of the tragedies that gave rise to the Black Lives Matter movement.
Earlier this month on April 8 in Arlington, Texas, a 15-year-old approached an officer in his patrol car and pulled out a BB gun, police said. The cop said he feared for his life and struck the teen’s arm so the “gun” would fall to the ground.
“The gun was a BB gun,” Arlington Police Chief Will Johnson said in a news release. “However, you can see it looks real. Officers have to make split second decisions. Thankfully no one was hurt.”