This article, originally published at 1:15 p.m. July 22, 2023, was updated throughout the afternoon and at 5:30 p.m. July 22, 2023, to add additional information about the incident from a press conference and news release. It was updated again at 12:01 p.m. July 23, 2023, to add a statement from County Executive Marc Elrich. It was updated again at 2:35 p.m. July 24 to include the identities of the decedent and officer involved in the shooting.
Montgomery County Police Officer Justin Lee fatally shot a man suspected in four stabbings in Aspen Hill on Saturday, police announced. The identities of Lee and the decedent were made public by the Attorney General’s Office the following Monday.
The decedent, identified as 19-year-old Gaithersburg resident Franklin Castro Ordonez, used a 12-inch butcher knife in a series of attacks that Montgomery County Police Assistant Chief Darren Francke called “unprovoked” and “random.” Police have not found a connection between Ordonez and the stabbing victims, according to Francke.
When officers approached Ordonez in a residential neighborhood, he did not comply with commands to drop the knife and lunged toward one of the officers, later identified as Lee.
Lee then shot Ordonez multiple times, which stopped Ordonez from “attacking further people,” Francke said.
The incident began around 10:36 a.m. when police were dispatched for a woman stabbed at the Unique thrift store on Veirs Mill Road near the intersection of Randolph Road. Another call was received around 10:37 a.m. for two women stabbed nearby at a yard sale on the 4100 block of Colie Drive, Francke said.
Fourth District officers responded, and radio chatter indicated requests for support from other districts.
Three of the stabbing victims were taken to Holy Cross and Suburban hospitals, Francke said.
Two of the female victims sustained non-life-threatening injuries, and the third woman is listed in critical condition. The adult male was not transported to the hospital because he had “superficial injuries,” a police press release said.
All victims are expected to survive, Francke said.
Francke said that after these incidents occurred, individuals in the area saw Ordonez and informed officers which direction he went.
“Officers continued to set up a perimeter and were looking for the subject when another citizen advised that he was heading into the woods,” Francke said. “Officers attempted to encircle the woods. The subject came out onto the sidewalk and confronted a police cruiser.”
Officers located Ordonez at around 10:47 a.m. in the 4300 block of Havard Street, holding a large butcher’s knife, according to the release. He was shot by police after lunging toward them with the knife, according to a press release.
Emergency personnel rendered first aid, but Ordonez was declared dead at the scene, Francke said. The two officers on the scene were not injured, Francke said, adding that “they are shaken up” because this is “one of the worst days that an officer can have.”
County Councilmember Natali Fani-González (D-Dist. 6) called the violence “a terrible incident in our community.” In a statement to MoCo360, she said, “I am glad that the area was quickly secured by our police officers.”
County Executive Marc Elrich (D) released a statement late Saturday, thanking the officers for their quick response. “Their efforts very likely prevented further assaults and may well have saved lives,” he wrote.
The investigation of the stabbings will be handled by the county police’s Criminal Investigation Division, and the investigation of the shooting will be handled by the Maryland Attorney General’s office by the Independent Investigations Division, Francke said.
Elrich, in his statement, called for the Attorney General’s to release video footage and the names of those involved “in a timely manner.” He also committed to expanding crisis support in the county.
“[W]e do not know the motive for this attack today,” he acknowledged, but wrote: “We need to find ways to avert these kinds of tragedies from occurring and not put our officers into the difficult and tragic position of determining when it is necessary to take a life. To that end, I will be working with our Department of Health and Human Services, MCPD, our community partners and the County Council to identify and expand crisis support services in Montgomery County.”
Both Lee and the officer who witnessed the shooting are being placed on administrative leave by the police department, which is standard practice after an incident like this, Francke said.
Thomas Lester, public information officer for the state Attorney General’s Office, said that the office will release the body-worn camera footage from this incident within 14 days and will publish a report on the incident.
“Our investigators and attorneys will put together a report that covers their investigation of the shooting. We will forward that to the Howard County State’s Attorney’s Office who will make a final determination on the shooting,” Lester said.
Montgomery County and Howard County state’s attorneys have an agreement to review officer-involved civilian fatalities in each other’s jurisdictions. Starting Oct. 1 of this year, the state Attorney General’s Office will have charging authority.
This is a developing story and will be updated as more information becomes available.
MoCo360 reporter Em Espey contributed to this story.