ESSEX, Md. (WJZ) — Baltimore County police released body-worn camera footage from the May 16 deadly officer-involved shooting in Essex.

Police released the body-worn camera footage during a press conference Wednesday following the department’s policy to release video in an officer-involved shooting within 30 business days of the shooting.

Chief Melissa Hyatt said the video showed the officer was “in the right place to keep the community safe.”

“Everything about this incident was difficult for everyone involved,” Hyatt said. “We are going to continue to work to be a transparent organization.”

“The loss of a life is a devastating and tragic occurrence for everyone involved,” she added.

Suspect In Officer-Involved Shooting In Essex Has Died, Police Say

Col. Robert McCullough, who is leading the investigation into the shooting, detailed what happened that night, saying the incident is still under investigation and new information could still come to light.

Police Officer First Class Knight, a 24-year veteran of the force, responded to a parking lot on Skipjack Court for a nuisance call around 10:42 p.m. The 911 caller had told police there was a crowd outside and that the young men were drinking.

When Knight arrived, he saw a green Buick being driven erratically by a suspect, later identified as 29-year-old Robert Johnson Jr. The Buick had struck several parked cars in the area.

Knight called for backup as he tried to make contact with Johnson. As Johnson exited the vehicle, he dropped what appeared to be a handgun, but then immediately retrieved it.

McCullough said commands given by Officer Knight were ignored and the officer then fired at the suspect.

The suspect then began to flee from the officer toward other townhomes, police said.

Knight again fired at Johnson, this time striking him. He then immediately called for medics.

Screenshot of police body-worn camera video showing Officer Knight’s encounter with Robert Johnson, Jr.

McCullough said once the scene was secure, they gave Johnson aid and he was taken to Shock Trauma, where he later died.

The state’s attorney office said it determined that it was a “justified shooting” after reviewing the body-worn camera video and statements from eyewitnesses.

“When Mr. Johnson reached for that handgun, he immediately put Officer Knight’s life at risk,” said deputy state’s attorney Robin Coffin. “When he continued to hold onto to that handgun and run with it, and run with it in that community, that was very busy out there with 30 or more people outside, doors were open and he was running towards that area that was blocked off — holding onto that gun — he presented a grave risk to that community.”

“He continued to maintain control of that gun and pointed it at Officer Knight,” the deputy state’s attorney added. “It’s a tragedy but no criminal charges will be filed.”

Officer Jen Peach read the 911 call transcript in order to keep the caller anonymous.

“I live at Skipjack Court, and it’s a crowd of young guys outside. They are drinking. There is a commotion. They are all over the top of people’s cars. They are approaching all the neighbors, and if you come in the house, you feel threatened because they are walking up on you. We need some type of police presence around here to clean this neighborhood up,” the caller said according to the police transcript.

In the video, you can hear Officer Knight shout, “That’s three cars dude, do you want to stop?” as he tries to confront the erratic driver. You can see a car moving on camera and hear a car door slam as Johnson gets out.

As Officer Knight goes to talk to Johnson, you can hear Knight say “Oh no” before you hear gunfire. He yells “shots fired, I need backup now!”

You then see the suspect flee, as Knight chases him toward the townhomes yelling “Stop!”

Then more gunfire and you see Johnson fall to the ground.

“Let me see your hands, your hands!” Knight commands. “Don’t move!”

Knight again calls for more backup.

Johnson, of the unit block of Championship Court in Owings Mills, was shot in the back and buttocks, police said. Johnson had just been released from federal prison in April and was prohibited from owning or possessing a firearm. The handgun was reported stolen in Virginia.

Robert Johnson, Jr. photo from GoFundMe

Another man, an occupant inside the Buick, was also shot but survived the shooting.

Police slowed down the video to show the handgun that Johnson dropped and said they recovered a handgun on scene.

They said Knight fired a total of eight times — three when he initially saw Johnson was armed and then again five times after Johnson refused to listen to the officer’s commands.

Officer Knight is back working patrol in Essex, officials said. Police said he had no prior officer-involved shootings on records.

Watch the press conference in two parts below.

Johnson’s family’s attorneys will hold their own press conference Friday.

Comments (4)
  1. King Julian says:

    so we don’t have to defund the police in Baltimore County?

  2. Questo says:

    In this case, based on this evidence, I would say the threat was real & credible & the shooting was justified.

    BTW “de-funding” police does not mean getting rid of police, it means restructuring them and how they & other organizations work together in a more proactive fashion. It has worked well in some cities, so it is something to look into. The pro trumpers claim it means getting rid of them, but it does not. Drugs & guns often go hand in hand- the time to keep people off drugs is before they start.

    The problem in this case was easy access to guns. The original owner in VA should be held liable as s/he did not properly secure the gun. VA is one of those gun nut states where it is easy to get a handgun & they can be carried around. If people do not properly secure their guns and they get lost or stolen, they should be held accountable for what they are used for. That pistol should have been property secured in a safe whee it could not be stolen.

  3. Janae W says:

    it was hard to look at-I can clearly see the gun as the officer sees it and I think the man was a threat and the shooting was justified- he had just wrecked a bunch of cars clearly he was not right in the head dangerous & unpredictable. Police do kill people when they don’t have to but in this they had to. This was an armed man not an unarmed one or one they crushed his neck until he died screaming he could not breathe-different things.

  4. King Julian says:

    he was on parole, no guns allowed, if he shows SHOOT!

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