COLLEGE PARK, Md. (AP/WJZ) — A 16-year-old boy who was shot and killed by a Maryland State Police trooper was an honor student who loved cooking with his mother and spirited political debates at the family dinner table, the teenager’s relatives said in a statement Wednesday.
A written statement from the family doesn’t address the circumstances of Peyton Ham’s encounter with the trooper who shot him Tuesday afternoon outside a home near the State Police barracks in Leonardtown. Investigators determined that Ham had an airsoft gun and a knife and pointed the replica toy gun at the trooper, who was responding to a pair of 911 calls, according to State Police Superintendent Woodrow Jones III.READ MORE: COVID-19 In Maryland: 65.4% Of Adults Received At Least One Dose Of The Vaccine
Instead, the family statement focuses on their memories of Ham and his academic and personal achievements. They described him as “an incredibly smart, gifted sweet young man” with a “Alex P. Keaton” type personality, referring to the conservative, overachieving character played by Michael J. Fox on the 1980s-era sitcom “Family Ties.”
“Our family is absolutely heart broken and shattered over this sudden, unexpected loss of life of a talented young man, filled with promise,” the statement said. “Words cannot express the gratitude our family is feeling with the overwhelming love and support being extended by our friends and family in our amazing community.”
According to the preliminary investigation, Maryland State Police received two separate 911 calls around 1:30 p.m. at the Leonardtown Barrack.
The first call was from a male who gave a phone number instead of an address.
They reported to the dispatcher that there was someone acting suspiciously who he believed had a gun. The dispatcher asked for his location, but the call was disconnected.
Two minutes later, a second 911 call was received from a male who gave a street address in the 23000 block of Hollywood Road.
The caller said someone was acting suspicious and he thought he had a gun. He hung up and did not give a name.
The preliminary investigation indicates that within minutes, a uniformed Maryland state trooper arrived at the location and confronted Ham in the driveway.
Police initially said Ham was armed with a gun and knife.
A witness told investigators they saw the individual in the driveway in what the witness described as a shooting stance, pointing a gun at the trooper. The trooper fired at Ham, wounding him.
A second witness told investigators that after the trooper fired the first time, they saw Ham pull out a knife and try to get up. The trooper ordered him to drop the knife before he fired again.
Investigators later determined the gun to be an airsoft gun that was a “close representation of an actual gun.”READ MORE: Police Looking For Suspect Who Fatally Shot Christopher Lee Lombr In Brooklyn Park
The @MDSP have released these photos – One is a stock photo of the airsoft gun they say Ham was holding. The other is an actual picture of the knife recovered from the scene @wjz pic.twitter.com/E6eNt1yMgu
— Rachael Cardin (@RachaelCardin) April 14, 2021
The trooper reported the shooting and called for EMS. Aid was rendered to Ham by troopers and sheriff’s deputies until EMS arrived.
The trooper involved is a uniformed patrol trooper assigned to the Leonardtown Barrack. He has been a Maryland state trooper for two years and seven months.
Maryland State Police troopers don’t wear body cameras, and the encounter wasn’t captured on any dashcam video.
Jones said investigators will look for video from the area where the shooting occurred.
“There are many questions we do not have the answers to at this point in the investigation,” Jones said. “However, we are committed to conducting a thorough investigation to determine what has occurred.”
State Police investigators will present their findings for the St. Mary’s County State’s Attorney’s Office to review, according to Jones.
Leonardtown, the county seat of St. Mary’s County, is about 60 miles (95 kilometers) southeast of Washington, D.C.
In their statement, the family said Ham was an honor student at Leonardtown High School and history lover who enjoyed studying European history, ancient monarchies and the rise and fall of the former Soviet Union. His grandfather inspired his love for baseball and the Baltimore Orioles, in particular.
Ham was thrilled to make his school’s mock trial team and was picked to be a “prosecutor” for one of his team’s cases, his family said.MORE NEWS: There's Been An Uptick Of Depression Among College Students, What's Being Done To Help
“Peyton dreamed of attending a 4-year university to obtain an undergraduate degree, and move on to pre-law, with the ultimate dream of being an elected Senator or Delegate, to represent his home state of Maryland,” the statement says.