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No criminal charges for Baltimore Police officers who fatally shot man with knife

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Screenshot from video below


Darcy Costello

Baltimore Sun

Two Baltimore County Police officers who fatally shot a man brandishing a knife and carving fork in Essex in May will not face any criminal charges for their conduct, prosecutors said.

Baltimore County Deputy State’s Attorney John P. Cox wrote in a letter on Sept. 8 that there are “no appropriate criminal charges to be brought or prosecuted regarding any of the officers.” Cox said his office had reviewed body camera footage and a report completed at the end of August by the Independent Investigations Division.

Ralph Picarello, III, 39, was shot and killed by two Baltimore County Police officers after investigators said he moved quickly toward officers with a knife and carving fork in his hands.

The report identified the officers as Derrick Manning and Eric Pellegrino. Together, they fired four shots that struck Picarello in the chest, hand and forearm, according to investigators. A third officer deployed a Taser.

The Independent Investigations Division, which is charged under state law with investigating fatalities involving police, including fatal shootings, in-custody deaths or police pursuits, found that officers “only used deadly force when Mr. Picarello created a situation in which the officers had reason to believe they and others faced an immediate threat of serious physical injury.”

It evaluated potential criminal charges of intentional second-degree murder, voluntary manslaughter and other charges — and concluded it was “highly unlikely” the state could prove officers didn’t act in self-defense or with law enforcement justification, a defense that says officers can use “force necessary to discharge his official duties.”

The report also said it’s unlikely that prosecutors could prove the officers who fired their weapons “acted unreasonably” by not first deploying a Taser.

Picarello was “moving quickly towards them” when Manning and Pellegrino fired, plus they couldn’t get farther away from him due to the layout of the house, and he could have posed a threat to others in the home, the report said.

The Essex case marks the third fatal police shooting in Baltimore County to be investigated by the Independent Investigations Division and led to no criminal charges. Two officers involved in civilian deaths in separate incidents last October were cleared by the Baltimore County State’s Attorney’s Office earlier this year.

The two October incidents were the first to be investigated by the unit, following 2021′s law directing the new investigative unit look into police-involved deaths. The division does not make a charging decision; it prepares an investigative report with findings and legal analysis then shares it with local prosecutors, who make a determination on criminal charges.

Baltimore County Police have previously said officers arrived on May 4 at a home on Boundbrook Way for a reported physical domestic disturbance, where they encountered Picarello. Body camera footage released in July showed Picarello standing in the kitchen and speaking with a woman in the home as officers collected information.

State investigators wrote in their report that police were told by a family member Picarello had held knives to his throat and the throat of a family member earlier that afternoon. A family member reportedly told police he had just been discharged from the hospital for an overdose and was “withdrawing badly.”

Attempts to reach Picarello’s family members on Wednesday were unsuccessful.

Manning and Pellgrino spoke to Picarello for “approximately six minutes,” the report said, with Picarello “consistently agitated” during that time.

When one officer suggested he let police take him to a hospital, Picarello refused. The officer then told Picarello that “unfortunately,” he would have to go to Franklin Square, a medical center.

“No, we’re not. No, we’re not. I’m telling you right know,” said Picarello, who then picked up a knife and carving fork from the ground.

Officers yelled for him to put down the knife, but he did not. Picarello then can be seen in the footage coming from around the kitchen table toward the officers. They fire shots at him, striking him. A Taser can also be heard.

Footage shows officers putting handcuffs on Picarello as he is apparently unconscious, then starting first aid. The state investigators’ report said paramedics responded eight minutes after the shooting and pronounced him dead.

The report said neither Manning nor Pellegrino had shot anyone prior to Picarello’s May 4 death. Manning had one prior Internal Affairs complaint, which was unsubstantiated and had “no bearing” on this incident, according to the investigation; Pellegrino had none.

The Baltimore County Police Department did not immediately respond Tuesday afternoon to a question about the status of Manning and Pellegrino with the agency.

The Independent Investigations Division is still investigating the other fatal police shooting by Baltimore County Police in 2022, according to an online dashboard.

Joseph Robert Henry Thompson, 66, was shot to death in early June after he answered a Towson apartment door with a handgun that he pointed at police and appeared to fire. One officer was shot in the hand, and a woman was found inside the apartment suffering from gunshot wounds in that shooting.

Baltimore County Police also shot and seriously injured a 19-year-old driver in April. A grand jury found the officers’ actions in that shooting justified, following an investigation by the police department.

©2022 Baltimore Sun. Visit baltimoresun.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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