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Group calling for independent review of deadly officer involved shooting

Posted at 9:59 PM, Mar 05, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-05 23:21:25-05

BALTIMORE COUNTY, Md. — The Baltimore County Justice Coalition is calling for changes to the Baltimore County Police Department's use of force procedures and a private investigation into the officer involved shooting of Eric Sopp.

Last week Baltimore County Police released a 9-1-1 call from Sopp’s mother, and body worn camera footage and audio of the events leading up to the shooting.

“The officers who got out of their police vehicles to apprehend Mr. Sopp started a place of heightened excessive aggression,” said Tre’ Murphy of the ACLU of Maryland.

The coalition is calling for the department to review their policies in regards to interactions with people experiencing a mental health crisis.

Before Sopp was pulled over, his mother called 9-1-1 and told dispatchers she fears her son is suicidal and that he just drove away from the house.

“He picked up a log and was looking for a knife. Threatening and putting a ice pick to his neck and stuff like that,” Sopp’s mother Catherine said in the 9-1-1 call.

She gives his vehicle information, where he may be headed and tells police she fears he may drink himself to death or overdose on drugs.

An officer spots Sopp driving and initiates the traffic stop.

Then, the officer gets out of his vehicle with his gun out and asks Sopp to let him see his hands, put the car in park, and other orders several times.

The video shows Sopp getting out of the car, which the officer yells for him not to do, and the officer shoots him 8 times.

In a statement, Sopp's mother said she never imagined that when she called 911 to protect her son and others from driving drunk, it would cost him his life.

Sunday Umoh of the Baltimore Transity Equity Coalition said, the Mobile Crisis Response unit should have been called in.

“Officer Page did not even attempt to engage constructively with Eric to assess the situation,” Umoh said. “County officers are supposed to have some training in using active listening and response skills yet, Officer Page displayed none of those to engage or communicate.”

Ronald Patterson with the Baltimore County NAACP saying there is a pattern of misconduct pointing to three other cases including Gamel Antonio Brown who died in police custody after he called 911 for medical assistance and had police respond.

Police say officers tased Brown when he became combative.

“In response to their tasing he went into cardiac arrest,” Patterson said. “He has died as a result of what happened in his home in response to a call for medical assistance. There was no criminal allegation in the content of the 9-1-1 call.”

In that case four officers that were involved were placed on routine administrative leave.

The Deputy State's Attorney cleared Officer Page in the shooting of Sopp, saying that it was justified under the circumstances.

The Baltimore County Police Chief said an internal investigation is ongoing.