BALTIMORE (WJZ) — The family of a man fatally shot Saturday night by an off-duty school police officer and a retired corrections officer during an alleged armed robbery attempt said police have told them conflicting stories about what happened in the moments leading up to his death.
Family members gathered outside City Hall Monday identified him as 22-year-old Devante Jones and said they don’t believe he would have tried to rob anyone.
“My son was running. They didn’t have to shoot him, they didn’t have to kill him,” his mother told WJZ.
“They never mentioned it was a police, a former police (officer) or nothing,” another family member said. “They said it was a random shooting.”
The shooting happened around 11:15 p.m. Saturday near the intersection of 23rd Street and Guilford Avenue.
Baltimore City Police said Jones, who appeared to have a gun, attempted to rob the officers, who pulled out their guns and shot him. He was pronounced dead at an area hospital.
— Logan Reigstad (@loganreigstad) August 25, 2019
A police report said Jones told officers, “They shot me as I tried to rob them,” That exchange was reportedly captured on body-worn camera video, police said.
The report also said Jones was shot in the upper left chest.
As the investigation continues, the head of the Baltimore schools police union said their officer took “appropriate action” when confronted with a threat to his life.
That officer is on routine administrative leave.
“Our officers are not losing sight of the fact that there was a young man that lost his life in this tragic incident,” said Sgt. Clyde Boatwright, the union’s president, echoing comments made in an earlier statement. “Sadly he decided to arm himself and decided to prey on citizens that were just enjoying a beautiful Saturday night in Baltimore.”
— Avajoye Burnett (@AvajoyeWJZ) August 27, 2019
Meanwhile, Jones’ family said they just want closure.
“If he did something, please, just get the truth. That’s all I want,” Jones’ grandmother Earline Gardner said. “If he did something he wasn’t supposed to do, okay, I can accept that. I just want to know.”
The union’s full statement reads:
“On Saturday, August 24, 2019, an off-duty Baltimore City School Police officer was enjoying an evening with friends when a masked man armed with a firearm announced a robbery and demanded their property. Fearing for their safety, the off-duty school police officer and a retired corrections officer discharged their firearms, striking the suspect multiple times. The suspect was later pronounced dead at an area hospital.
The men and women of the Fraternal Order of Police Baltimore School Police Lodge #5 stand firmly in support of the actions of our member. Confronted with an immediate threat to his life, our officer relied on his training and took the appropriate action. We do not celebrate the loss of life in this situation; however, this case is proof that violent crime is out of control in the City of Baltimore. We, as law enforcement professionals are eager to continue the fight against violent criminals who are preying on our communities. The victims, in this case, deserved to enjoy a beautiful Saturday night in Baltimore City without being targeted for a robbery by a masked gunman.
In recent weeks, we have witnessed an increase in violent attacks on off-duty police department personnel within the City of Baltimore. We hope that all levels of government will support local law enforcement officers in taking the necessary steps to bring this violent crime under control.
We are a city in crisis, and we must use every available resource to bring those persons who are committing violent acts to justice! Our communities deserve a safe city!”