Police kill knife-wielding man

Officers serving burglary warrant inside rowhouse

June 01, 2000|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,SUN STAFF

A police officer serving a routine burglary warrant inside a Northeast Baltimore house shot and killed the suspect yesterday morning, officials said, after the man lunged at the officer with a kitchen knife in a cramped, second-floor bathroom.

The city's second fatal shooting by an officer in as many days prompted Commissioner Edward T. Norris to visit the scene on Montpelier Street in Clifton Park and talk to residents upset about police use of deadly force.

The dead man was identified as Raymond Askins, 39. He is the eighth person to be shot by a city police officer this year, and the fourth to die - equaling in five months the number of people killed by police in all of last year.

Norris has said that more aggressive patrols could lead to more confrontations between suspects and police. That was evidenced earlier this year when an officer shot and wounded an armed robbery suspect and when an officer was killed trying to stop a suspect in a shooting.

While defending yesterday's 6 a.m. shooting as justified and saying the "police officer's life was in grave danger," Norris said the officers might have violated departmental policy before the deadly confrontation by letting Askins go to a room alone.

After being allowed into the house by the suspect's uncle, Officers Chris Schmidt, 28, and Tuesday McLeod, 30, allowed Askins to go to the bathroom before taking him into custody.

Police said the man used a kitchen knife to stab himself about 10 times in the chest before he allegedly lunged at Schmidt when the officer pushed open the bathroom door.

"He is supposed to be kept under constant observation," Norris told reporters at the scene. "We're going to investigate this to see if there was any violation of our procedures."

Askins' older brother, Ronnie Askins, questioned the shooting. Neither relatives nor neighbors witnessed the incident, but they spoke after being briefed by police.

"I don't think it was appropriate," Askins said, sitting on the curb near his family's cordoned-off rowhouse in the 1600 block of Montpelier St. "They could have shot him in the leg. They shoot to kill."

Other residents who knew Askins concurred. As Norris addressed reporters, one unidentified man in the crowd shouted, "Why did they kill him, commissioner?"

A neighbor, Frank Moore, 30, complained that police at the scene told reporters that Askins had been arrested 14 times, mostly for minor theft, drug, burglary and assault charges, which officers knew about before serving the warrant.

"You can't blame his police record," Moore said. "Everybody has bad times that happened in the past. That doesn't have nothing to do with today. Shooting somebody should be the last choice." Moore, who watched as Norris climbed into his car and was driven off, said: "You won't see him anymore until someone else dies."

In 1995, 37 people were shot by police and 10 of them died. In 1998, 12 people were shot and five died. Last year, 21 were shot and four died.

Monday night, a police officer fired five shots into a stolen car that was being driven at him by a robbery suspect on Edmondson Avenue. Bullets struck the windshield and hood, but no one was hit.

Early Tuesday, an officer shot and killed a robbery suspect he said pointed a gun at him in a narrow alley off the 2100 block of Edmondson Ave.

"No one comes on this job wanting to hurt anybody," Norris said yesterday.

"But in the last two days, we have had an officer face down a robbery suspect with a stolen 9 mm handgun, and now we've had an officer lunged at with a kitchen knife on a routine warrant. It's pretty dangerous out here."

Norris' aggressive policing strategies to reduce a homicide toll that surpasses 300 each year has caused concern in some neighborhoods that officers will be out of control. Norris denied that that will happen, but said the increase in confrontations has led to several dangerous situations.

In April, officers were on Belair Road to combat a string of holdups and shot a man moments after he held up a liquor store at gunpoint.

In May, officers saturated the Pratt-Monroe neighborhood because of shootings, and they were close enough to watch as a teen-ager wearing body armor allegedly shot a man in the leg and then sped away in a Ford Bronco.

That vehicle hit a police cruiser and killed Officer Kevon Gavin.

Yesterday's incident occurred when Schmidt and McLeod, members of the Northeastern District's warrant squad, went to Askins' house to serve a warrant charging him with burglary in a March 6 break-in of a house in the 3700 block of Yolanda Road, in which jewelry and appliances were stolen.

The officers - Schmidt in uniform and McLeod wearing a yellow slicker with "police" written on the back - knocked on the front door and were allowed inside.

Norris said Askins "appeared very calm. The subject actually requested to go to the bathroom. He was allowed to do so."

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