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'It's A Cane!': Body Camera Footage Sheds New Light On Harford County Deputies' Shooting Of Edgewood Man

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- A 53-year-old Edgewood man killed by Harford County deputies during an April confrontation in Forest Hill was holding a cane when deputies opened fire, fatally shooting him, authorities said Thursday.

That detail was made public when the Independent Investigations Division of the Maryland Attorney General's Office released nearly 23 minutes of footage from the body-worn and dashboard cameras of deputies involved in the April 23 shooting.

John Fauver, who was given first aid until paramedics arrived at the scene of the shooting, was taken to an area hospital, where he died of his injuries.

[VIDEO: Click here to watch the YouTube video. The footage might be disturbing to some, so viewer discretion is advised.]

The release of the footage comes nearly 11 weeks after the shooting and roughly a week after Harford County State's Attorney Albert Peisinger announced he would not seek criminal charges for the deputies involved.

The IID, which typically releases body-worn and dashboard camera footage within 14 days of such incidents, said it delayed the release of the video in the Fauver case to preserve the integrity of its investigation and avoid tainting witness interviews.

Footage released Thursday, which runs about 22 minutes and 45 seconds, shows several perspectives of the sequence of events leading up to, during and after the deadly shooting, including those of the deputies who fired their weapons.

Deputies were handling a call about a suicidal person with access to firearms about 4 p.m. April 23 at a shopping center on Rock Spring Road, where they found Fauver, who was ordered out of his pickup at gunpoint, the IID said. Instead of getting out of the truck, the footage shows Fauver backing into a police SUV and peeling out, even as Sgt. Bradford Sives opens fire at the pickup's tires.

The footage later shows deputies with guns drawn surrounding Fauver's pickup in a nearby parking lot. Deputies can be heard speaking with Fauver for several minutes before Sgt. Sives points out that the 53-year-old is reaching for something, which he quickly realizes is a cane.

"He's reaching down and... it's a cane! It's a cane! It's a cane! It's a cane!" someone can be heard shouting near the 11:30 mark, moments before a lone gunshot can be heard following by several more. Seconds later, Sives shouts: "Cease fire!"

A second perspective, this one from the body-worn camera of Cpl. Christopher Maddox, shows Maddox standing significantly farther away from the pickup. "He's got a gun, he's got the gun!" Maddox can be heard shouting before he opens fire. "Shots fired, dispatch! Shots fired, suspect's down. He's still got a rifle, standby!"

Another angle from a dashboard camera appears to show Fauver gesturing toward deputies or pointing an object at them before the shooting. It is unclear based on the footage whether deputies could clearly identify the object he was holding.

Afterward, deputies approach Fauver to handcuff him and give him first aid as he lies face down on the pavement with a cane lying on the ground nearby.

Peisinger, the state's attorney, announced June 29 that he would not pursue charges for the deputies. After reviewing evidence including footage and witness interviews, Peisinger said he found the use of force necessary and proportional. He categorized Fauver's death as "suicide by law enforcement."

Attorney Cary Hansel, who represents Fauver's family, called the shooting a "clear failure" of training on the part of the Sheriff's Office, saying deputies did not use a "less lethal" option.

Hansel said there is no evidence that Fauver had a gun and noted that the 53-year-old used a cane due to medical issues. He said Fauver's family is "calling for change," and they're ready to push for it in the courtroom.

The video is among the evidence a judge ordered the Harford County Sheriff's Office to hand over April 28 in response to a court order sought by Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh, who accused the agency of interfering with the state's independent investigation into Fauver's death.

The legal back-and-forth stemmed from Harford County Sheriff Jeff Gahler's initial refusal to produce the video, which he invited investigators to review at his agency's headquarters instead. The court sided with Frosh and Gahler did not appeal.

Sheriff Gahler said Thursday that an internal investigation into the shooting is ongoing.

He criticized the Attorney General's Office for releasing "selectively chosen" video, saying deputies recovered two rifles and a shotgun from Fauver's vehicle.

He declined to say where the guns were found and if they were immediately accessible to Fauver, whom he said was prohibited from possessing firearms.

"Mr. Fauver intended to die in a suicide-by-cop," Gahler said.

The sheriff said his deputies "feared for their safety" during the incident, saying that Fauver had an "aggressive shooting stance" when he held the cane at deputies after ignoring their commands.

Asked by WJZ whether "less lethal" options were available to deputies at the scene, Gahler said his agency is equipped with them but said that the incident escalated too quickly for deputies to make use of those options.

The IID, which was formed in response to 2021 police reforms and is charged with investigating all civilians deaths at the hands of law enforcement, said Thursday that it continues to investigate the circumstances surrounding the shooting.

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