Police: Child hostages shouldn't have to relive horror, body cam video not made public
BALTIMORE (WBFF) -- Though reporters were shown body camera video from Friday's hostage-barricade situation, the Baltimore Police Department (BPD) made a decision to not release the footage to the public.
The decision was made out of respect for the innocent child hostages, police said, who were described as "screaming" for their parents while being threatened by a family member armed with a knife.
Approximately 30 minutes of footage from two body cameras was shown to reporters gathered at a briefing Tuesday.
It was not broadcast or aired outside of the briefing room.
A public briefing was held afterwards and BPD officials answered questions about Friday's incident, which ended with a SWAT officer fatally shooting the suspect.
"It's not easy to watch a grown man intentionally put a knife to a 4-year-old and a 1-year-old," BPD Commissioner Kevin Davis said. "It's not easy to watch on video a police officer discharge his firearm to stop a threat like he did. But we thought it was important for you all to see, as much as we could share with you, the timeline of events."
Friday's incident unfolded inside a home on N Fulton Avenue in the early morning hours.
Officers were called to the scene around 6:45 a.m.
According to investigators, 39-year-old Reno Joseph Owens, made repeated threats while holding a knife on the children, inside their bedroom.
"Throughout this ordeal he was both homicidal and suicidal," Commissioner Davis said of the suspect. "He posed a deadly threat the entire time."
Reporters who viewed the video on Tuesday described the footage as "graphic and disturbing."
The suspect appeared to be acting irrationally and did not cooperate with police during the incident, reporters said after watching the video.
"At no time did the suspect release the children," Davis said. "At no time did the suspect drop his knife. At no time did the suspect comply with the many, many pleas from the police officers on the scene to surrender. He chose repeatedly not to do that. So at the moment the shot was fired, the suspect still posed a very deadly threat to a 4-year-old and a 1-year-old."
Approximately 7-8 officers on the scene were wearing body cameras.
One of the cameras showed the scene outside, when a Sergeant told officers, "I want you to be calm, I want you to be relaxed, I want you to walk in and kill this guy," reporters said.
Both children were on the suspect's lap when the shot was taken, police confirmed on Tuesday.
He was shot in the head.
"If we fire a taser at this man and it doesn't work, he can stab and kill one of those children right then and there," Baltimore Police spokesperson T.J. Smith said. "The same thing goes with a beanbag shotgun...we're not talking about a situation where it's solely the suspect and the officer, we're talking about the suspect and two individuals and those individuals happened to be a 1-year-old and a 4-year-old."
The officer who fired the shot was a 14-year member of the SWAT team, Smith confirmed.
"These police officers did the right thing," Davis said Tuesday. "They did it with courage, they did it with bravery...they did a great job, they saved lives."
According to investigators, Owens was homeless but had been allowed to stay at the home overnight.
His exact relation to the family is unclear at this time.
"This is somebody's child," Smith said. "This is somebody's 4-year-old and 1-year-old and to hear those deafening screams from a 1-year-old and 4-year-old, screaming for their dad, screaming for their mom, screaming just for help -- it's heartbreaking. These officers kept their poise, hearing this, many of whom have their own young children themselves. It was a very, very tough moment and tough decision that had to be made. However the suspect was given every opportunity, to at minimum, release the children."