For the first time in roughly two decades, the Dauphin County Crisis Response Team shot and killed a suspect during a standoff in Harrisburg Monday afternoon.
A Harrisburg police officer shot Ishmael Muhammad, 29, twice after he waved a machete and threatened two hostages inside an apartment on Evergreen Street.
“He had the machete and was making threats. The use of lethal force would have been justified earlier. The police acted with restraint in order to try and safeguard the hostages,” said Dauphin County Assistant District Attorney Fran Chardo.
Police arrived at the apartment in the morning after Muhammad’s girlfriend called them about Muhammad assaulting her.
Police say Muhammad declined to cooperate with them, blocking the doorways with kitchen appliances and the windows with mattresses and other items.
Chardo said Muhammad had a two-year-old girl and a 26-year-old disabled man inside with him and was threatening to attack police and the hostages with a machete. Chardo said investigators were still trying to determine the relationships among the three people.
“He was obviously under the influence of some drugs and was ranting and raving and threatening to do harm to his potential hostages,” said Chardo.
Police attempted to negotiate with Muhammad for a few hours. Witnesses say they heard Muhammad yelling back at them. Police went into the apartment just after 2 p.m., when one of the officers shot Muhammad.
“At some point, I think we all knew this day would occur, and today it did,” said Dauphin County District Attorney Ed Marsico. He noted last month was the first time the CRT team fired gunshots at a suspect. This incident was the first in which a team member killed a suspect.
Muhammad has been arrested several times, dating back about a decade. He’s pleaded guilty to drug and assault charges, most recently in May 2010.
Marsico said the officer who fired the fatal shots is on administrative leave, which is customary in a case like this one. His office will review the team’s handling of the situation. But, he said based on what he’s heard so far it appears the police were justified in using deadly force.