Baltimore officer cleared of charges in shooting of man from inside police vehicle

A Baltimore police officer who last year shot a knife-wielding man through the windshield of his car while seated inside the vehicle has been cleared of criminal wrongdoing by the city state’s attorney’s office.

The April 10, 2012 shooting had drawn protests, with critics contending that the officer mishandled a call involving a mentally and physically disabled person. It was one of several police-involved shootings last year that involved calls for individuals with mental illness who were shot. But prosecutors said the shooting did not cross the line into a violation of the law.

Officer Fred Murray, a 6-year veteran, was dispatched to a report of a man with a mental illness carrying a butcher knife, and encountered David Yim in the 1200 block of Oakhurst Pl. Mark Cheshire, a spokesman for State’s Attorney Gregg Bernstein, said Murray “tried to engage Mr. Yim with his windows down.”

“At first, Mr. Yim failed to acknowledge the officer, then unexpectedly turned around and charged at Officer Murray, who was seated in his patrol car,” Cheshire said. “When Mr. Yim turned to charge, he had a large butcher knife in his hand.”

Cheshire said Murray fired five shots through the windshield of the car, and police have previously said that Yim was on the passenger side of the vehicle. Yim was struck once in the side, and survived his injuries. A second knife was found in his waistband as he was taken into custody, authorities said.

“Given that he was in fear for his life when Yim charged toward him, [Murray’s] use of deadly force was justified as an act of self-defense,” Cheshire said. “The officer was authorized under the Baltimore Police Department training guidelines to repel that deadly attack.”

Murray’s attorney, Michael Davey, declined to discuss the shooting, saying Murray could still face internal police department discipline.

“We’re just happy that the state’s attorney reviewed the case and came to the conclusion that we did, that Officer Murray clearly did not commit any violation of the law,” Davey said. “I’m sure the BPD will conduct an internal matter to determine if there are any training issues involved.”

Yim’s mother has spoken out about the shooting, and activists such as the Rev. C.D. “Cortly” Witherspoon have cited the case in police protests. Janice Thompthin said her son suffers from mental illness, and was stabbed 11 years ago and is paralyzed on one side of his body.

“He wasn’t a threat. They should have known that he was disabled from the way he moves,” Thompthin said at one rally.

Witherspoon, who sharply criticized Bernstein’s recent decision not to charge officers in the death of Anthony Anderson in East Baltimore, said “there’s a different standard of justice applied to Baltimore City police officers in this city.”

“Certainly, it sends the message to citizens that they should be fearful of the police, and exascerbates the community and police relations. It creates heightened tensions in the community,” Witherspoon said. “When Bernstein came into office, he said he wanted to re-establish ties with the police department. But this is going too far.”