The Baltimore State’s Attorney’s Office on Thursday declined to file criminal charges against two Baltimore Police officers who shot and killed Donnell Rochester, whose death sparked protests in the city and calls for answers.
Police shot Rochester, 18, of Odenton, on Chilton Street near Hillen Road in Coldstream-Homestead-Montebello after he drove in the direction of an officer on Feb. 19, 2022, according to an 11-page investigative report. Prosecutors concluded that the shooting was lawful self-defense.
“I want to publicly express my deepest condolences to the family of Mr. Rochester, whom I met with prior to announcing the decision not to prosecute the officers involved in this fatal shooting,” State’s Attorney Ivan Bates said in a statement. “To lose a loved one so tragically and violently is one of the most traumatic experiences a human being can endure.”
Bates said he and his Public Trust and Police Integrity Unit “take allegations against law enforcement very seriously.” The decision not to pursue charges, he said, came after a careful examination of the evidence, which included body camera video.
Prosecutors, he said, ethically could not bring charges given the circumstances of the case.
“The officers had a legitimate legal reason for pursuing and attempting to take the Involved Citizen into custody,” the State’s Attorney’s Office said in a report released Thursday that accompanied the decision. “The Involved Citizen, knowing he was being pursued, failed to comply, and in an effort to avoid capture the Involved Citizen drove a motor vehicle towards Involved Officer #1, creating a life threatening situation for Involved Officer #1.”
Bates said the former state’s attorney, Marilyn Mosby, was provided in October with the information. The Maryland Office of the Attorney General’s Independent Investigations Division, which investigates police custody deaths statewide, issued a report to Mosby’s office even earlier than that, on Aug. 3.
Police were on patrol in the area of Belair Road and Erdman Avenue at about 3:10 p.m. and tried pulling over Rochester after running the license plate of his 2016 Honda Accord and determining there was a warrant for his arrest. He took off. Officers later found his car on Chilton Street, prosecutors said.
Rochester had gotten out of the car. Several police officers started running toward the vehicle, which was parked on the side of the road. He got in the driver’s seat, prosecutors said, and police told him to stop while an officer tried entering the car through the passenger door.
Next, Rochester started to accelerate “in the direction” of Officer Connor Murray, who fired four shots, prosecutors said. Meanwhile, Officer Robert Mauri fired two rounds, prosecutors said.
Rochester later crashed into a parked vehicle. He was pronounced dead at 3:41 p.m. at Johns Hopkins Hospital.
In body camera video, Rochester cries out, “Help me” while police handcuff him. Attorneys representing the family at the time, Billy Murphy and Malcolm Ruff, have questioned why police opened fired in the first place and did not rush him to the hospital.
“Begging for them to help him, to see blood beside his body in handcuffs, how can you stand there as a human?” Rochester’s mother, Danielle Brown, told WJZ-TV, The Baltimore Banner’s media partner. “And not want to help my son? How?”
Protesters have rallied and called for justice outside Baltimore City Hall.
“This pain is like no other. It’s deep. It’s so deep that it’s unbearable,” Brown said at one of the protests.
“I’m going to continue to fight for my son. My son is not worth no money. I don’t want no money,” she added. “I want them indicted. That’s it.”
When he was 12, Time magazine featured Rochester in a story about Baltimore after the death of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old Black man who died from injuries sustained in police custody.
In an email, Thomas Lester, public information officer for Independent Investigations Division, said it plans to release its investigative report into the shooting on Tuesday.
The president of the Baltimore City Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 3, Sgt. Mike Mancuso, could not be reached for comment.
The officers remain on administrative duty pending the outcome of an internal investigation, said Lindsey Eldridge, a spokesperson for the Baltimore Police Department, in an email.
Baltimore Police shot two people in 2022 — both fatally — the fewest known total in recent history. Officers shot an average of more than six people per year from 2015 through 2021. Before that period, the total was regularly higher.
Investigative reporter Justin Fenton contributed reporting to this article.