Gary J. Willis, 61, answered the door of his Anne Arundel County, Maryland home at 5:17 a.m. with a gun in his hand. Minutes later, he was dead.
The Baltimore Sun reports that two officers fatally shot Willis as they attempted to take his firearms from him as part of a “Red Flag” order.
Sgt. Jacklyn Davis, an Anne Arundel Police Department spokesperson, told CBS News that Willis initially complied with the order to put the gun down. Shortly after, Willis “became irate,” and picked the firearm up again, at which point Sgt. Davis states “a fight ensued over the gun,” and a shot rang out. That round did not strike any person, but officers returned fire and killed Willis.
The Capital Gazette states that Maryland’s “Red Flag Orders,” known in the state as “Extreme Risk Protective Orders,” are the strongest in the nation. Under the law, family members, police officers or others may temporarily prohibit an individual from accessing firearms if they show signs that they may be a danger to themselves or others. The Baltimore Sun reports the law took effect October 1.
Fox Baltimore reports 114 Extreme Risk Protective Orders have been issued in the month since the law went into effect. The President of the Second Amendment rights group, Maryland Shall Issue, Mark Pennak, told Fox Baltimore that “this has disaster written all over it.”
A neighbor interviewed by Fox said, “ I didn’t even know about the new law…He [Willis] probably didn’t.”
“I’m just dumbfounded right now,” Michele Willis told The Baltimore Sun. “My uncle wouldn’t hurt anybody.”
Michele, who had identified herself to the Sun as Gary’s niece, said she had grown up in the house. She noted that her uncle “likes to speak his mind,” but she described him as harmless.
Michele was present at the house Sunday night, helping her son, who had been helping to care for her grandmother, move out when the police came to speak to Gary Willis for the first time, telling the Sun that visit could be attributed to “family being family,” but didn’t offer further explanation. She said one of her aunts requested the protective order to temporarily remove Willis’ guns.
“They didn’t need to do what they did,” Michele Willis told the Sun, adding that she wishes officers had continued negotiations with her uncle and that the altercation didn’t result in his death.
“If you look at this morning’s outcome, it’s tough for us to say, ‘Well, what did we prevent?’ ” Chief Timothy Altomare told the Capitol Gazette. “Because we don’t know what we prevented or could’ve prevented. What would’ve happened if we didn’t go there at 5 a.m.?”
While Altomare is speaking in hypotheticals, the reality is that a man was killed inside his own home when police came to confiscate his firearms, after having committed no apparent crime.
Altomare said of the protective orders the granted in the county, his officers have handled nine and seized “around 33 guns” in the process, according to the Gazette.