Since the start of the year, five people have been injured, four fatally, after violent encounters with Baltimore County police. Three were armed with guns, one with knives and one with a baseball bat.

The volume of violent conflicts has left some in the community questioning the aggressiveness of Baltimore County police, while the police department asks its own tough questions about the a rash of violence toward officers.

"Five in three months is monstrous," said Baltimore resident Britt Minshall, a former police officer and member of Interpol. "It?s true there are serious problems with drugs and gangs in the Baltimore area. But some police officers tend to shoot when they should be talking."

Baltimore County police say they didn?t have much of a choice in each of the five incidents.

"Why are so many people violently attacking police officers?" Baltimore County police department spokesman William Toohey asked. "Why are so many people going after police officers with guns? The police are responding. They are reacting with deadly force."

In 2007, Baltimore City police ? who handle eight times the homicides of Baltimore County police ? have shot and killed one person this year, Baltimore police spokesman Matt Jablow said.

While the number of Baltimore County police-involved shootings is high comparatively, Johns Hopkins criminologist Sheldon Greenberg said, it?s nothing to be alarmed about.

"Baltimore County has one of the premiere departments in using negotiations," Greenberg said. "They?ve had a rash of confrontations recently with armed men and women. When an officer confronts someone who is threatening to use deadly force, the officer has less than 2.5 seconds to draw, aim and shoot. A police officer doesn?t have the time to go through a long list of alternatives to deadly force. He has to react."

One of the police-involved deaths ? the Feb. 18 shooting death of Keith Showalter, 25, of Parkville ? occurred after a police standoff while Showalter was locked alone inside his condominium.

Showalter?s mother, Cindy, said she knew she could calm her son down but police prevented her from speaking to him. County police are investigating the incident.

But Greenberg said allowing a relative to talk to a person during a standoff isn?t always the best idea.

"For every spouse or relative who says they can de-escalate a situation, there are 10 who will escalate the situation," he said.


» Ryan Lee Meyers, 40, of Middle River, died last week after officers used a Taser stun gun to subdue him. He wielded a baseball bat.

» Victoria Louise Carr, 37, of Essex, was shot March 7 after she ran ? armed with kitchen knives ? toward an officer.

» Keith Showalter, 25, of Parkville, was killed Feb. 18 after shooting at police.

» Danny Ray Hammonds, 52, of Dundalk, was fatally shot Feb. 12, as a police tactical unit raided his house searching for his son. Hammonds reached for a gun.

» Justin Carl Wylczynski, 21, of Berwick, Pa., was shot to death in early January after he fired at officers.