COLUMBIA, Md. (WJZ) — A life or death scenario is played out at BJ’s Wholesale Club in Columbia. A knife-wielding man is shot by police.

Monique Griego updates the investigation and talks to customers about the chaotic scene.

Howard County Police say it all started when store security tried to stop the man for shoplifting. They say he then pulled out a knife and made a desperate attempt to get away. But it all came to an end at the tire center, when he was shot by an officer.

A day of shopping at the BJ’s in Columbia turned violent.

Howard County Police say it all started after a man is stopped by security inside the store for allegedly shoplifting.

“When they approached him and confronted him, he brandished a knife and at some point began threatening those security guards,” said Sherry Llewellyn, Howard County Police.

Investigators say the suspect–now identified as 33-year-old Howard Smith, of Columbia–ran out of the store and into the parking lot as crowds of customers looked on.

“It was busy. Yeah, there was a lot of people in there,” a shopper said.

After running out of the store, the suspect picked up a stick and with his knife still in hand, he ran to a transit bus and tried to smash out the window. But the driver wouldn’t open the door.

“He wasn’t able to get on, ran back to the BJ’s into the tire area that’s behind us still brandishing the knife,” Llewellyn said.

Once inside the tire center, officers now on the scene were able to catch up with him.

“And there was a confrontation. He refused to drop the knife, and he was shot by one of our officers,” said Llewellyn.

Smith was taken to Shock Trauma and is listed in critical condition.

Police say he came to the store with his brother and friend, but they are not believed to be involved in the incident.

As for shoppers, the entire scene was hard to believe.

“It’s a little crazy for this area. Especially Howard County. I mean, a guy getting shot,” a witness said.

Police say nobody else was injured in the incident. Investigators did find a large wooden stick and a small folding knife at the scene.

The tire center where the accident occurred remains closed.


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