`He did not want to hurt anybody'

Father of armed man killed by the police says he was harmless

August 21, 2007|By Josh Mitchell | Josh Mitchell,Sun reporter

Adam B. Rothstein suffered from bipolar disorder since childhood, and had spent the last several weeks recovering from surgery on his foot. But the 24-year-old Parkville man was upbeat about returning to work as a security guard, his father said, and even found joy in the simple act of picking up his new uniform.

On Sunday morning, two police officers showed up at Richard Rothstein's Pikesville home to tell him that his son was dead - shot by police after he pointed what turned out to be a pellet gun at them.

"It wasn't like he wanted to go out killing people," Richard Rothstein said yesterday, in between making funeral arrangements and comforting grieving relatives at his house. "It wasn't 3 o'clock in the afternoon in a crowded mall and he decided to take out people. ... He did not want to hurt anybody."

A Baltimore County police spokesman said the officers appeared to have followed department procedures. Adam Rothstein, they said, had claimed to be armed with guns and knives and threatened suicide. He had told police who found him in the middle of the night on a Parkville street that he would start shooting if his demands were not met.

The officers had agreed to Rothstein's demands for some water and to talk to a priest at a Towson hospital, police spokesman Cpl. Michael Hill said. But Rothstein, he added, would not put down his weapon.

"On its face, all officers acted appropriate to policy," Hill said.

Adam Rothstein was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at age 7, his mother said, and had been treated at various facilities throughout his life.

Family members said he attended the Regional Institute for Children and Adolescents, a residential school in Montgomery County for children and adolescents with severe emotional disabilities, and earned a diploma.

He loved watching police shows such as Cops and Law and Order, his family said, and became a security guard for a contractor. He prided himself on living independently, sometimes traveling three hours on public transportation to work. Several years ago, he moved out of his mother's house in Nottingham and into his own place several blocks away, his family said.

Rothstein sometimes threatened people but never followed through on the threats, Richard Rothstein said. Police visited his son about 20 times throughout his life, and typically, they would calm him down during episodes related to his illness, his father said.

"He understood completely his condition," Richard Rothstein said, adding that his son was careful to take his medications. "He's had issues most of his life, but he was never known for violence."

In 2004, an official at a health clinic petitioned the court to order Rothstein to undergo a medical evaluation, court records show. The petition was withdrawn, the records show.

Also that year, Rothstein received probation before judgment on a possession of marijuana charge, court records show, but a survey of Maryland court records show no other criminal cases.

On Saturday night, Rothstein and his younger sister went to a neighbor's house to hang out with several friends, said the sister, Nancie Rothstein, 21.

Adam seemed happier than usual, laughing throughout the night, Nancie Rothstein said.

When a friend starting getting sick, Adam Rothstein called the friend's father, who showed up, thanked Adam for his help and took his son home, Nancie Rothstein said.

Adam then went home, she said, adding, "He wasn't agitated."

Hours later, police received a 911 call from Adam Rothstein, who said he had a handgun and threatened to kill himself, police said. He later told officers that he was armed with knives, another handgun, pepper spray and a Taser, said Hill, the police spokesman.

Officers found Rothstein walking in the 8700 block of Avondale Road near Parkville Middle School, police said.

During conversations with officers and a police negotiator that lasted more than 90 minutes, Rothstein talked about work problems, Hill said.

Rothstein "was angry about problems with his job as a security guard, and actions taken by his employer because of problems he was having," Hill wrote in an e-mail. He did not elaborate.

Rothstein asked for a bottle of water, to be taken to St. Joseph Medical Center in an ambulance and to see a priest, police said. "All these things had been arranged, he simply had to put the weapon down, which he refused to do," Hill wrote.

Rothstein had said that if his demands were not met he would begin shooting at 3:30 a.m., police said. At 3:29 a.m., he began walking toward officers, shined a flashlight at them and pointed his gun at an officer, police said. Two officers each fired a shot at Rothstein, and he died at the scene.

The names of the officers were not released.

Officers found pellets, two CO2 cartridges, a butter knife and a folding knife, police said.

Richard Rothstein disputed that his son was upset about work, and said he had never heard his son talk about suicide.

He added that police may have inflamed the situation by calling in members of the tactical team and canine unit.

"It did not have to get that far," he said. "Someone says I'm sick, I need help, and please just get me to a hospital. That's what you do. That's all you have to do."

josh.mitchell@baltsun.com

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