ESSEX, Md. — Baltimore County Police say their officer was justified in a May 16 deadly shooting of an armed 29-year-old man in Essex.
On Wednesday, Baltimore County Police released officer body worn camera footage of the incident that took place on Skipjack Court.
Officers were initially called to the location for complaints of a loud chaotic party.
In the graphic video, Robert Johnson gets out of a car that was seen driving erratically. A gun falls to the ground, and Johnson tries picking it up as officer Knight orders him not to. Johnson continues to reach for and pick up the gun, resulting in the officer firing three times and missing.
Johnson then runs with the gun despite repeated commands to stop and drop the weapon. At some point Johnson turns and points the gun at officer Knight, causing him to shoot five more rounds striking Johnson, who later died.
According to the Baltimore County State's Attorney's Office, Johnson had a lengthy violent criminal past and was prohibited from possessing a firearm.
Throughout the incident, the State's Attorney's Office said Johnson posed a grave risk to the officer and community, citing evidence that his finger had been on the trigger.
Officer Knight is back on active duty, as an internal investigation continues into the incident. In 24-years with the department, Knight never had a prior police involved shooting.
Answering a nuisance call for dozens of unruly people drinking in a parking lot, on the night of May 16th, Officer First Class Knight’s body-worn camera counts down the seconds as he waits for a car driving erratically outside the Cove Village townhouses to finally come to a stop.
29-year-old Robert Johnson, Junior’s next move would draw gunfire.
“The driver exited the vehicle dropping what appeared to be a handgun on the ground,” said Col. Robert McCullough of the department’s Criminal Investigations Bureau. “The suspect, Robert Johnson, then immediately went to retrieve the weapon and picked up the weapon off the ground.”
Officer Knight’s initial three shots missed their mark, but as Johnson ran from him with the gun still in hand, he would draw five more shots.
“You see the backward motion of his hand with the handgun, and he actually maintains control of that handgun until he’s on the ground,” said Deputy State’s Attorney Robin Coffin. “There’s injuries to his finger indicating that his finger was on the trigger guard as he went down.”
With his own life at stake and those of the 20 to 30 people outside in the parking lot at the time, prosecutors say Officer Knight had no choice, but to act on the threat using what would prove to be deadly force.
“Having reviewed all of the statements by eyewitnesses in that community, the body-worn cameras and all the recorded statements, it was the State’s Attorney’s Office position that this is a justified shooting,” said Coffin.
It was later learned Johnson had just been released from federal prison about six weeks earlier where he had been serving time for a weapons conviction, and he was prohibited from having a handgun.