While giving chase last year to a man in Emmitsburg wanted for attempted murder, a Frederick County sheriff's deputy and Pennsylvania trooper mistook a 15-year-old bystander for the suspect and shot in his direction eight times, a report from the state's attorney's office reads.
The Frederick County State's Attorney's Office investigated the Oct. 19, 2020, shooting and found the unidentified officers' "use of deadly force" against the teen — who was not struck by the officers' rounds — was not "objectively unreasonable," the report released Wednesday states.
As a result, the office will not pursue criminal charges against the Frederick County Sheriff's Office deputy or Pennsylvania state trooper.
On Oct. 19, police from multiple jurisdictions in Maryland and Pennsylvania pursued David Leatherman, 43, who was wanted in Pennsylvania for attempted murder, and Bryan Selmer, as they fled in a vehicle and later on foot. Selmer, 38, was shot dead by Frederick County Sheriff's Office deputies. The state's attorney's office in January determined that shooting was justified.
Leatherman, of Hanover, Pennsylvania, was extradited to Pennsylvania to first face charges there. He remains held in Pennsylvania without bail, online court records show.
On Wednesday, a new report provided details about a second instance of shots fired Oct. 19. The discharges were directed at a 15-year-old boy who crossed paths with Leatherman as the suspect fled from police on foot along Md. 140 in Emmitsburg. The state's attorney's office's report found Leatherman and the teen — both white males and reportedly similar in stature — each wore gray hooded sweatshirts at the time of the shooting.
The 15-year-old and a 13-year-old were standing on the side of the onramp to U.S. 15 southbound adjacent to 47 Park Drive when Leatherman and Selmer ran from their disabled vehicle, the state's attorney's office report reads. Leatherman ran directly toward the minors and the elder teen tried to push the 13-year-old out of the way, causing the 15-year-old to "stumble and fall to the bottom of a hill in the backyard of 47 Park Drive," according to the report.
A deputy saw Leatherman flee in that direction before he disappeared from view behind the foliage, the report reads, and a few seconds later the deputy saw the minor emerge from the foliage, holding a black cell phone. The deputy "apparently mistook" the 15-year-old for Leatherman and fired at the minor five times. The teen took cover behind a tree and was not hit, the report states. One round was found lodged in the tree.
Frederick County Sheriff Chuck Jenkins told the News-Post on Wednesday afternoon that the sheriff's office is conducting an internal investigation into the incident. The deputy involved has been working on modified duty since the shooting and is not on the street, Jenkins said. The sheriff has directed the internal affairs staff to finish the investigation as "quickly as possible" and said he would update the media at the investigation's conclusion.
The deputy later told investigators he thought he was firing at Leatherman and did so because he saw "splashes" in the dirt that made the deputy believe he was being shot at, the report reads. A review of dash camera footage later showed Leatherman would not have been visible to the deputy at the time the deputy discharged his firearm.
"In the chaos of the situation, he believed that teenager was in fact one of the defendants," Jenkins said in an interview.
A Pennsylvania State Police Troop H spokesperson declined to comment on the trooper's involvement.
Seconds after the teen took cover, Leatherman reportedly fell down the hill into the backyard of 47 Park Drive, about 20 feet from where the 15-year-old was.
A Cumberland Township, Pennsylvania, officer then took Leatherman into custody, out of view of a Pennsylvania state trooper.
The state trooper then reportedly fired three rounds at the nearby 15-year-old.
The trooper, in an interview with investigators, said he thought Leatherman was firing at him, when in fact the gunshots the trooper heard were from the deputy, the report reads. The trooper told investigators he was firing in self-defense. As with the deputy, dash camera footage showed Leatherman would not have been visible to the trooper at the time he discharged his firearm, according to the report.
It was unclear Wednesday why the shooting against the minor was not disclosed until seven months after the incident. Jenkins said police did not intentionally withhold the information.