- Associated Press - Thursday, March 31, 2016

BALTIMORE (AP) - Two men died Thursday after plainclothes officers opened fire on them when they found the men aiming guns at someone across a street, Baltimore police said.

It’s likely that the men were fatally shot by police, but investigators were trying to piece together what happened, T.J. Smith, a Baltimore Police Department spokesman, said at an early-evening briefing with reporters.

One man carried an automatic rifle with a scope and laser that was loaded with at least 20 rounds, Smith said. He said the other man had a handgun.

“If you see one of the weapons that was recovered, this rifle, it’s a scary weapon that was aimed at someone in the middle of the afternoon,” Smith said.

He said the special operations unit officers were on patrol in an unmarked car when they happened upon the men, who had gotten out of a vehicle. While in plainclothes, the officers wore vests that identified them on the front and the back as police.

“The suspects who had the two guns were aiming those guns at people across the street,” Smith said. “They were aiming their guns and they were saying something,” to someone who was not one of the officers.

He said shots were fired by police, “both suspects were hit and both suspects on the scene were deceased.” Smith said he didn’t know if the men had refused to comply with any commands police may have given.

At least two of the officers fired, Smith said. He said he did not know if the deceased men had fired any shots, or if anyone else had.

He did not know the identities of the men who were killed.

The men were shot in the Greenmount West neighborhood of East Baltimore, next to historic Green Mount Cemetery, where presidential assassin John Wilkes Booth is buried. Smith said the neighborhood was the site of a homicide Wednesday night, as well as several nonfatal shootings in the past month.

Police don’t know who the people across the street were, but said that no one else was injured.

“Was there some kind of beef going on in this community prior to the officers coming down the street?” Smith said. “That’s a strong possibility.” However, he stressed the investigation was active and in its earliest stages. “What all went on that led them to take two guns, one high-powered, and aim it across the street?”

He said that the officers’ actions may have prevented “something from happening here.”

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