Body camera video captured a Baltimore SWAT supervisor ordering an officer to kill a man holding two children hostage with a knife. The footage offers an unusual window into how officers make a difficult decision to use lethal force.
The video captures a SWAT team sergeant outside the house where authorities had been unsuccessfully pleading for nearly an hour Friday for 39-year-old Reno Owens to release the 1-year-old boy and 4-year-old girl he was holding. The sergeant said the man, also clutching a 12-inch butcher knife, could kill the children at any time, and that nonlethal force wasn’t an option.
“I want you to be calm,” the sergeant tells SWAT Officer Zachary Wein. “I want you to be relaxed, and I want you to walk in there and kill this guy.”
Moments later, video shows Wein walking up the steps, exchanging a few words with Owens, who still refuses to cooperate, and then firing a single fatal shot. During the exchange, Owens can be heard saying, “I’d rather go out this way.”
Davis praised the officers for their “courage, bravery and grace under pressure,” and stressed such commands from SWAT supervisors are not uncommon in hostage cases involving “a deadly threat.” But seldom are such exchanges captured on camera.
You can watch the full press conference below.