The mother of a 16-year-old boy who was shot and killed by a Maryland State Police trooper said Wednesday that her son was "an awesome young man."
“It’s a horrific situation,” Kristee Boyle told The Associated Press during a brief telephone call.
A trooper responding to a pair of 911 calls fatally shot her son, Peyton Ham, on Tuesday afternoon outside a home near the State Police barracks in Leonardtown. Investigators determined that Ham had an airsoft gun and a knife, and pointed the replica toy gun at the trooper, State Police Superintendent Woodrow Jones III said Tuesday at a news conference.
A witness saw Ham in the driveway of a home “in a shooting stance” and pointing the gun at the trooper, who fired at the teenager and wounded him, Jones said. Another witness told investigators Ham then pulled out a knife and tried to get up, according to the superintendent.
“The trooper ordered him to drop the knife before he fired again,” Jones told reporters.
The airsoft gun that the teenager wielded is commonly used to shoot BBs and is “a close representation of an actual handgun,” Jones said.
Boyle said her family would release a statement about the shooting through an attorney “because we definitely would like our side of the story [told[ and for everyone to know what an awesome young man my son is.”
In that statement, released later Wednesday, the family said Ham was an eighth grader at Leonardtown High School and loved history, conservative politics, cooking and the Baltimore Orioles. He dreamed of studying law and representing Maryland as an elected official.
“Our family is absolutely heart broken and shattered over this sudden, unexpected loss of life of a talented young man, filled with promise,” the family said.
The trooper who shot Ham responded alone within minutes of the State Police receiving two 911 calls about someone acting suspiciously, according to the superintendent.
The first caller, a man, said he thought that the suspiciously acting “guy” had a gun, Jones said, adding, “The dispatcher asked for his location, but the call was disconnected."
The second 911 caller also said he saw a “guy” acting suspiciously and thought he had a gun, according to the superintendent. That caller gave a street address for the suspicious person but hung up without giving a name, according to Jones.
After the shooting, the trooper who shot the boy called for emergency medical personnel while other troopers and sheriff's deputies gave him first aid. Ham later died at a nearby hospital. Jones said police recovered the airsoft gun and a knife at the scene.
Ham was white, as is the trooper who shot him, according to State Police spokesman Greg Shipley. In an email on Wednesday, Shipley said he expects the trooper's name to be released this week.
The trooper who shot the teen has been with the State Police for two years and seven months and has been placed on administrative leave pending the investigation, Jones said.
Maryland State Police troopers don’t wear body cameras, and the encounter wasn't captured on any dashcam video. Jones said investigators will look for video from the area where the shooting occurred.
“There are many questions we do not have the answers to at this point in the investigation,” Jones said. "However, we are committed to conducting a thorough investigation to determine what has occurred."
State Police investigators will present their findings for the St. Mary’s County State’s Attorney’s Office to review, according to Jones.