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Police: Armed man threatened to kill officers before shot dead

NORTH EAST — An investigation is continuing after an armed man was fatally shot inside his apartment near North East on Sunday — when he opened fire on police officers responding to a domestic disturbance call, wounding a Cecil County Sheriff’s Office deputy and prompting a Maryland State Police trooper to return fire, police reported.

As of Tuesday, with autopsy results pending, investigators were unable to confirm if the MSP trooper fired the shot or shots that killed the armed man — Jonathan Balchunas, 24 — or if he died some other way, including possibly taking his own life after the incident in the 100 block of Chesapeake Ridge Lane, where Balchunas and his father lived together, police reported.

Moments before opening fire on the responding law enforcement officers, Balchunas pointed a 9mm handgun at his father’s head inside their apartment and threatened, “If the cops come, he is going to kill them, too,” police said.

The father, whom MSP officials identified as Robert Balchunas, had called 911 earlier to report that his son had armed himself with a gun amid a protracted dispute and scuffle between the two inside their apartment, which was occupied by only them, police added.

Cecil County Sheriff Scott Adams identified the wounded deputy only as Sr. Dfc. Shumaker, a six-year CCSO veteran, and withheld his first name. According to Cecil Whig archives, the wounded deputy’s full name is Kevin Shumaker.

Shumaker, who suffered a gunshot wound to his left arm, was transported from the shooting scene to Christiana Hospital in Delaware to receive treatment for what investigators described as a non-life-threatening gunshot wound, MSP officials reported.

“He already has been treated and released. We are very fortunate,” Adams told the Cecil Whig shortly before 7 p.m. on Sunday, about three and a half hours after the shooting incident had occurred.

Adams reported on Monday that Shumaker is on medical leave because of his gunshot wound.

MSP officials are withholding the names of the trooper who fired his gun during the incident and a second trooper, who also responded to the scene but did not discharge his agency-issued handgun.

Based on the preliminary investigation by the MSP Homicide Unit, which is handling the case, Shumaker responded to the apartment in the 100 block of Chesapeake Ridge Lane at 3:40 p.m. Sunday, after receiving an emergency dispatch about a man with a gun inside that dwelling, police said. Balchunas’ father had made that 911 phone call to the Cecil County Emergency Operations Center, police added.

Two troopers assigned to the North East Barrack also responded to the domestic disturbance call to assist the deputy, police reported.

Shumaker and the two troopers could hear arguing coming from inside the apartment as they approached the front door, police said. During the dispute, police added, they heard someone warn, “He has a gun.”

At that point, Shumaker and the two troopers entered the apartment through an unlocked front door, police reported.

“They were immediately fired upon by the suspect. In fear for his life and for the lives of the other police officers, one of the troopers returned fire as the officers retreated to the landing outside of the apartment to take cover. Once they retreated, it was discovered the sheriff’s deputy had been shot,” outlined MSP Superintendent Col. Woodrow W. Jerry Jones III on Monday morning during a press conference at the agency’s North East Barrack.

After the gunfire stopped, members of the Cecil County Special Response Team responded to the scene and cleared the apartment, police said. They located the suspect — later identified as Jonathan Balchunas, 24 — dead on the kitchen floor, police added.

Jones noted during Monday’s press conference that investigators found “a 9mm firearm in close proximity (to Balchunus’ body) with the red-dot laser of the suspect’s firearm aimed at the front door.”

Balchunas was pronounced dead at the scene and then his body was transported to the Maryland Office of the State Medical Examiner in Baltimore, where an autopsy is scheduled to be conducted, police said. The autopsy is expected to shed light on how Balchunas’ was killed and if the shots fired by the MSP trooper caused his death, contributed to it or did not strike Balchunas at all, police added.

MSP officials declined to say where on his body Balchunas had been wounded and if he had been shot once or more than one time.

As part of their investigation, MSP Homicide Unit detectives interviewed Balchunas’ father.

“The father told police he and his 24-year-old son had been arguing most of the day and had argued again prior to him calling 911. He also told police (that) he watched his son load a 9mm firearm,” an MSP spokesman summarized.

Then Balchunas “placed the barrel of the gun to his father’s head” and threatened to kill any police officers, too, if they showed up at their apartment, police reported.

An investigation by the MSP Homicide Unit is standard procedure after a police-involved shooting, police said. Also responding to the scene after the incident were MSP crime scene technicians, who processed the place, and Cecil County State’s Attorney James Dellmyer, who will review the criminal investigation after it is completed, police added.

In addition to the 9mm handgun located near Balchunas’ body, investigators found several other firearms inside the apartment.

The trooper who fired his agency-issued handgun during the incident has been placed on administrative leave, which is standard procedure in such cases, police said. The other trooper who also responded to the scene — but did not fire his gun — has been placed on administrative duty, police added. MSP’s Internal Affairs Division is conducting an administrative investigation — which also is standard procedure, police reported.

Councilman resigning ahead of Pennsylvania move

CENTREVILLE — Centreville Town Council member Robert Hardy has effected his resignation as of July 6. Hardy and his wife, Debbie, plan to move out of state later this year.

Hardy said he resigned ahead of his relocation to enable the council to place this open position on the ballot in the October 2021 election. He said he is hopeful this advance notice will also “permit citizens of the Town of Centreville to become aware of this situation and thereby have time to file to run for election.” The filing date to be placed on the October ballot is August 2021.

A member of the recently created “Council of Five,” Hardy said his move was planned to happen after October 2023, when, if elected, to a three-year term as town council member, he would not run for re-election. Debbie, a former teacher and media specialist at Grasonville and Church Hill Elementary Schools and at Kent Island High School, has also announced her retirement from the Queen Anne’s County Library, where she was the cataloging supervisor.

“But plans change and this plan was accelerated by several factors,” Hardy said, including the current real estate market and certain financials, and an opportunity to relocate near family and a young grandson.

Debbie, a native Marylander, and Bob, nearly a native after coming to Maryland 50 years ago, said it was not without fond memories and many friendships and memorable times that they are leaving Queen Anne’s County where they made their home for the last 31-plus years, and the Town of Centreville and Symphony Village for the last 13-plus years.

Council President Tim McCluskey said, “I would like to thank Bob for his time on the council. He got to work straight away and came up to speed on the issues very quickly. He did a good job working through this budget session, and I wish both he and Debbie all the best in their relocation to Pennsylvania.”

Chris Perkins, colleague and community volunteer, met Bob through their Rotary membership in the Centreville club.

“We hit it off, especially when we worked on the annual Artisans Festival together,” Perkins said. “He was always willing to jump in to help especially when it involved our youth. He was a Character Counts coach and also served on the Advisory Board. I know I will miss him and Debbie and wish them much happiness in their new home.”

The Hardys said they are thankful to be able to take advantage of this opportunity.

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Trump wins 2024 CPAC straw poll, aims at Hunter Biden’s art deals, critical race theory — and again windmills

DALLAS — Former U.S. President Donald Trump questioned the potential ethics of Hunter Biden’s art sales to undisclosed buyers, touted his administration’s development of COVID vaccines and tilted again at windmills, literally, as he easily won the much-watched CPAC 2021 straw poll for the 2024 presidential race.

Trump aimed at some familiar foes including President Joe Biden, the Washington establishment and the news media during a speech Sunday before the Conservative Political Action Committee’s annual conference in Dallas. Trump also faulted the U.S. Supreme Court for denying his challenges to President Joe Biden’s contentious 2020 victory.

Trump won the CPAC straw poll with 70% support from attendees at the conference. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis was second with 21% of attendees supporting him as the GOP’s 2024 presidential nominee. The former president is weighing a third run for the White House in 2024. The results show Trump’s continued popularity with many Republicans.

Trump also repeated his longstanding opposition to windmills and wind energy during his CPAC speech. He pointed to problems with windmills in Texas during winter storms. There are a number of wind energy projects in the works or planned off the Atlantic coast of Maryland and other states.

Maryland, North Carolina and Virginia are also forging a regional effort to bring more wind energy in the Atlantic Ocean. The Biden administration and progressives are also pushing for more renewable energy investments. Trump has had a longstanding opposition to windmills. Trump also defended him taking the U.S. out of the Paris Climate Accord, a move reversed by Biden.

“And we don’t need windmills in Texas and lots of other places. We don’t need windmills. They ought to end that program as quickly as they can.” Trump said during this CPAC speech.

Trump kept up his claims that Biden won the 2020 presidential via the counting of improper mail-in ballots and other irregularities in battleground states. He also faulted the U.S. Supreme Court and other courts for denying his and GOP challenges to Biden’s narrow victories in Georgia, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin.

Trump pointed to the Supreme Court denial of a challenge brought by Texas and other conservative states challenging the changing of voters laws before the 2020 election in battleground states that swung to Biden.

Trump hit at familiar foes — including the media and neoconservative and moderate Republican critics — and questioned the upcoming anonymous sales of art by Hunter Biden — the son of President Biden.

“You know where he is.” Trump said of Hunter Biden. “Where’s Hunter? His highest and best use, I can tell you, is in a studio to paint. Even though he’s never painted before. He set a record for the highest price for a person that never painted a picture before. Never did a painting before.”

Hunter Biden has an art exhibitions and sales planned of his work in New York and Los Angeles with pieces potentially priced between $75,000 and $500,000, according ArtNet.com.

The buyers are slated to be anonymous. Still, there are concerns over the ethics of high-priced arts sales involving the president’s son. The White House has set up a system involved with Hunter Biden’s art sales keeping buyers names anonymous.

“After careful consideration, a system has been established that allows for Hunter Biden to work in his profession within reasonable safeguards,” said White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said during a press briefing.

Hunter Biden’s foreign business dealings while his father was U.S. vice president came under scrutiny during the 2020 campaign.

“I think it would be challenging for an anonymous person who we don’t know and Hunter Biden doesn’t know to have influence,” Psaki said of the anonymous system being established.

Some Trump supporters also worried about pages and accounts carrying Trump’s CPAC speech being restricted by YouTube. The CPAC conference is a top event for conservatives and in the past was held in Maryland.

Other Trump critics wanted more attention paid to his continued challenges of Biden’s 2020 victory. “Trump at CPAC is talking about how he really won the election. Don’t ignore him. Report on every dangerous, dishonest, undemocratic thing he says,” said Joe Walsh, a conservative Trump foe and former congressman.

Trump also hammered the news media and critical race theory — a line of instruction and academic thought that looks at the intersection of race, racism and American history with contemporary issues — saying it is anti-American and focuses on America’s past transgressions.

“We will completely defund and bar critical race theory. 1776, not 1619, if you don’t mind,” said Trump referring to the focus on the year 1619 and the start of the slave trade in critical race theory “And if government run schools are going to teach children to hate their country, we will demand school choice that we already have. If you listen to the media or watch the evening newscast, our country has really gone bad. All we talk about is race. That’s all they talk about. Race. The whole show. race, race. We don’t talk about our country being great anymore,” Trump said.

He also touted his administration’s development COVID-19 vaccines. Some Trump supporters have been hesitant to get coronavirus vaccines and are resistant to government mass vaccination pushes.

“When the plague came in from China, I dragged the slow and complacent bureaucrats from the FDA, and the CDC into the Oval Office. I pushed them like they have never been pushed before, and thanks to the relentless efforts of my administration and me, we got miraculous therapeutics straight to patients with historic speed, and we produced three vaccines to end the pandemic in record time. Would have never happened. Would have never happened. We did it in less than nine months. They said a minimum of three years, probably five years, and sir, it probably won’t happen at all,” Trump said.

The summer weather and recent rain storms are welcomed by flowers and their blooms in Easton and across the Eastern Shore.

Summer bloom

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Police arrest stabbing victim's girlfriend

CAMBRIDGE — A woman has been arrested in connection with a June 22 stabbing in Cambridge after police said investigators determined the victim did not initially give them accurate information.

The Cambridge Police Department arrested 21-year-old Ty’keria E. Sheppard on Tuesday, July 6, after a warrant was issued for her arrest on Friday, July 2.

CPD spokesman Justin Todd said the 21-year-old victim initially told police he was riding his bike on Pine Street when a group of four or five Black males approached him and tried to rob him, and then one of the subjects stabbed him in the abdomen with an unknown type of knife.

Todd said the victim told officers he returned to his Greenwood Avenue residence before calling for help.

Investigators believe Sheppard stabbed the victim in their apartment on Greenwood Avenue, and then the victim gave police false information before being taken to the University of Maryland Shock Trauma in Baltimore to be treated for his wound.

Sheppard faces charges of first and second degree attempted murder, first and second degree assault, reckless endangerment and possession of a dangerous weapon with intent to injure.

She is currently being held at the Dorchester County Detention Center on no bond.

Mike Detmer is a staff writer for the Dorchester Star and Star Democrat based in Maryland. You can reach him at mdetmer@chespub.com.

A woman shouts during a an anti-government protest in Havana, Cuba, Sunday, July 11, 2021. Hundreds of demonstrators went out to the streets in several cities in Cuba to protest against ongoing food shortages and high prices of foodstuffs. (AP Photo/Ismael Francisco)

Cuba Protest