City officer kills man carrying a knife

Witnesses say he wouldn't drop weapon

March 05, 2001|By Brenda J. Buote | Brenda J. Buote,SUN STAFF

A 36-year-old West Baltimore man who authorities said brandished a knife and attacked a man at a substance-abuse recovery center early yesterday was shot and killed by a city police officer.

Police identified the man as Eric Sketers, whose last known address was the 700 block of Grantley St. They said he was shot several times after he approached the officer with a knife, which was recovered next to his body. The shooting at 12:17 a.m. in the 400 block of E. Lafayette Ave. was the first time this year that a city officer has shot someone, police said.

Police identified the officer who fired the fatal shots as John Opitz, 35, a 15-year veteran assigned to the Eastern District. He has been placed on administrative duties pending the outcome of an investigation.

FOR THE RECORD - The name of the Baltimore Police Department's chief spokeswoman was reported incorrectly in yesterday's Maryland section. It is Ragina L. Averella.
The Sun regrets the error.

Ragina L. Cooper, a police spokeswoman, said the incident began shortly after midnight when police received reports of disorderly conduct and a man armed with a knife at Recovery King II.

A few minutes later, Opitz arrived on the scene and was met by several residents of the center. "People outside were saying, `There's a man in there tearing things up with a knife,'" Cooper said, "So Opitz waited for backup." Officers Richard Watts and Steve Fisher, who also work in the Eastern District, arrived within minutes.

"Officer Opitz was the first to go in," Cooper said. "He hollered at [Sketers] several times to drop the weapon. According to witnesses, [Sketers] refused and came at Officer Opitz with a knife. The officer fired several shots."

Sketers was pronounced dead at the scene.

It was not clear yesterday why Sketers was at the recovery center. A former resident of the facility, Sketers arrived at the center in a fit of rage, witnesses told police, and attacked a resident. The victim, a 42-year-old man, received lacerations to his leg but refused treatment, Cooper said.

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