US police shoot unarmed black Baltimore man

2015-06-26 06:07


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Owings Mills - An unarmed black man was fatally shot on Thursday by officers in suburban Baltimore who thought he had a weapon when they were called to a home from which he was barred by protective order, the police chief said.

The death follows that of a 25-year-old black man who died in April from an injury suffered in the custody of Baltimore city police, which prompted protests and rioting. And it comes amid a national debate over the treatment of African-Americans at the hands of police, after high-profile deaths of black men in Ferguson, Missouri, and New York City.

Spencer Lee McCain, 41, was shot about 01:00 at the home in Owings Mills while a woman who said he threatened to beat her and her two young children were there, Baltimore County Police Chief Jim Johnson said at a news conference.

Three officers were on the scene, and all fired as McCain was in a "defensive position" and they thought he had a weapon, Johnson said. But he said no weapon was found. Two of the officers are white, and one is black, police said. All are on administrative leave. Police said the incident began when one of the children in the home called his grandmother, who called 911 and asked police to go there.

An officer who arrived heard screams and called for backup, Johnson said. He said 19 casings were found at the scene, but it wasn't clear how many times McCain was hit.

Police said the woman had head injuries, cuts, bruises and swelling. Johnson said she told detectives that McCain said to her: "You're going to get the beating you deserve."

Sixteen to 20 domestic violence calls had been made to that home address since 2012, police spokesperson Corporal John Wachter said.

According to 2013 census figures, 27.5% of Baltimore County's population is black and 64.1% is white. The police chief and county executive are white.

As of February, black people made up less than 13% of the county's 1 868-member police force.

A medical examiner ruled this week that the death of Freddie Gray was a homicide, after he suffered a "high-energy injury", most likely caused when a Baltimore city police van he was riding in suddenly slowed down. A grand jury indicted six officers on various charges. One officer faces the most serious charge of second-degree "depraved-heart" murder. They have pleaded not guilty.

The report said Freddie Gray's death could not be ruled an accident and is instead a homicide because officers didn't follow safety procedures "through acts of omission".

Police and an attorney for the Gray family have said previously that Gray suffered a severe spine injury.

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