The Havre de Grace man killed by a Harford County Sheriff’s Office deputy at the conclusion of an hours-long standoff Saturday was shot when he brandished a black plastic object he had fashioned into a gun-like shape, police said, but had no actual firearm on his person.
Austin F. Jones, 34, of Havre de Grace was shot and killed by a member of the agency’s Special Response Team following a standoff which began at approximately 4:20 p.m. Saturday when Havre de Grace police responded to the 700 block of Erie Street for reports of a fight in progress. City officers determined Jones was “possibly armed and holding someone against their will,” according to a Sheriff’s Office release Sunday, and called for the agency’s Crisis Negotiation Team and Special Response Team.
According to that release, “preliminary investigation revealed that Mr. Jones had barricaded himself in a room of the apartment and was armed with a firearm.” According to Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Cristie Kahler, deputies were informed by Havre de Grace police that there was reason to believe Jones was armed. Members of the Crisis Negotiation Team secured the release of Jones’ hostage by 7 p.m. that evening and were negotiating for his surrender, with SRT “prepared to make entry.” Kahler said the Special Response Team provides security at the scene of barricade situations and was in an overwatch-type deployment while remaining “prepared” to enter the building if required; she said there was no indication that the team was in the process of actually breaching the residence at the time of the shooting.
As negotiations continued, Kahler said that Jones made an overt gesture with what she identified Tuesday as “a black plastic object which Mr. Jones had fashioned into the shape of a handgun.” Kalher said there was “no indication” what the object was originally but that Jones had “manipulated it to resemble a gun,” and appeared to intend for it to look like a handgun. She declined to release photos of the object. Following the shooting, investigators determined that Jones did not have a real firearm on his person.
Kahler also declined to identify the deputy who shot Jones, citing his assignment to a specialized tactical unit and concerns “for the safety of the deputy, the safety of his family, and the protection of any future operations in which he may be involved.” However, she said the SRT member had previously been an officer in Baltimore County, received a lateral transfer to the Harford County Sheriff’s Office five years ago, and joined the SRT two years ago.
Following an August incident in which a 19-year-old Bel Air man was shot and killed by a Sheriff’s Office deputy outside a Rock Spring snowball stand, the agency identified the deputy involved once the officer had been interviewed by investigators.