Baltimore police shot a West Baltimore man on the porch of his home after, officers said, he came at them with a 12-inch carving knife.
This happened after he threw a hot liquid on his girlfriend and threatened to cut himself, police said.
Col. Robert C. Novak, Chief of Patrol, said the officers had tried to disarm the man peacefully and had called for special equipment - nets, beanbag guns and pepper spray - designed for that, but the man "forced the situation. He charged at the officers. You can't let somebody with a knife to come out into the street," Novak said.
The 44-year-old man, whose name was not released by police, was shot at virtually point-blank range by two of the group of about six officers on the brick rowhouse porch in the 500 block of Lyndhurst Ave., just a few steps south of busy Edmondson Ave.
He was taken to Maryland Shock Trauma Center, where he underwent surgery. Police said he was in serious but stable condition. His girlfriend, Carol Williams, 37, of the 500 block of Lyndhurst, went to St. Agnes Hospital, police said, burned either with hot water or grease. Later, police said she was treated and released.
But witnesses at the scene disputed the police account of the shooting and angrily charged that officers could have subdued the man without shooting him.
"The bottom line is, as far as I'm concerned, that was wrong," said Ricardo Swann, 45, of the 700 block of Lyndhurst, on the north side of Edmondson Ave.
Swann said he came to the front of the house after hearing the commotion and seeing an ambulance come for the woman.
He said a group of officers was on the front porch and several others went around back. The man came to the open doorway, turned to look behind him and then turned to face front again when the officers began firing. Swann said he heard at least two shots.
"It was an emotional thing. He got upset. They never said `put the knife down.'" Swann said.
Another man, James "Jimmy" Robinson, 67, of the 3800 block of Harlem Ave. said he did not see the shooting but saw an earlier portion of the incident, with the woman screaming in pain while lying in a city ambulance.
"It doesn't make sense to shoot someone with a little knife," he said. "Tear gas will bring anyone down."
The two officers who shot the man, Christopher Warren and Orojlio Oden, will be placed on administrative duties pending the outcome of an investigation, said police spokesman Scott Rowe.
Traffic was heavy as motorists inched past police and television vehicles.
The officers closed off Lyndhurst Ave. with yellow crime-scene tape as homicide detectives investigated the incident.
Novak said the man will face charges for the alleged assault once he leaves the hospital.