A 33-year-old northwest Baltimore man, acquitted four years ago of the murder of a Korean grocer, was shot and killed today by a city police officer after the man pulled a replica of a handgun and placed it to the officer's face, police said.
Theodore Bushrod Jr., of the 3100 block of Piedmont Ave., was pronounced dead at the scene, at Walbrook Avenue and Poplar Grove Street.
Southwestern District Officer Thomas Mistysyn, 25, a one-year policeman, told investigators he shot Bushrod after the man placed what turned out to be a plastic replica of a .45-caliber handgun to the officer's head and they struggled.
The black plastic gun model was in Bushrod's pocket when he confronted the policeman. Investigators said they were puzzled as to why Bushrod would produce the replica, which appears realistic, against an officer who he probably knew was armed with a loaded 9mm semiautomatic handgun.
Bushrod was shot three times in the chest from nearly point-blank range. City officers are trained to fire three-round bursts from their weapons once they make the decision to use them.
Mistysyn's account of the incident, given to investigators, said he was on patrol in a marked police cruiser shortly before 9 a.m. when he saw Bushrod at Walbrook and Poplar Grove, a block from a Drug Free Zone and a heavy illegal narcotics area.
The officer said he drove several blocks, returned to the intersection and found Bushrod still on the corner. At that point, he said, he decided to conduct a "field interview" that would have included taking the name and address of Bushrod, who apparently was not involved in any illegal activity.
Mistysyn said that when he approached, the man pulled the plastic gun from a trousers pocket and pointed it in his face.
The young officer said he did not know the gun was plastic, and began struggling with the man. During the struggle, police said, Mistysyn pulled his service revolver from his holster and fired three shots into Bushrod's chest.
An elderly man who lives in the neighborhood later said Walbrook and Poplar Grove is an area frequented by narcotics sellers and addicts. He said dealers, primarily pushing crack cocaine, open for business at 7 a.m. and remain active on the corner until 11 p.m.
However, a search of Bushrod's clothing failed to turn up any contraband, police said.
Bushrod was one of two men charged in September 1987 with the robbery-slaying of Korean grocer Kwang Ja Kim, 45, in her C&K Wines and Grocery store in the 3000 block of Windsor Ave.
About $1,500 was taken in that robbery.
Bushrod and his family testified in Baltimore City Circuit Court that he was having dinner with them from 5 p.m. until 11 p.m., a time that would have prevented him from being near the scene of the killing.
Bushrod's attorney argued that a description and identification of the suspect was unreliable because the incident happened so quickly.
Bushrod's first trial in connection with the killing ended in a deadlocked jury. Four months later, he was acquitted after a second trial.
As detectives collected information in today's shooting, Mistysyn was placed on administrative leave with pay. That is the standard policy in all fatal shootings involving city police.
The case is being investigated by the department's homicide unit and internal affairs division.