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Cop Found Guilty In Marine’s Shooting Death

Cop Found Guilty In Marine’s Shooting Death

Police Officer Gahiji Tshamba

The Baltimore Sun via YellowBrix

June 10, 2011

BALTIMORE – Baltimore police Officer Gahiji Tshamba was found guilty of manslaughter Thursday in the shooting death one year ago of Tyrone Brown, a Marine veteran and father of two.

“The defendant overreacted and in fact exacerbated this whole tragic” set of event, said Baltimore Circuit Judge Edward R.K. Hargadon.

More than 21 witnesses appeared over six days, offering varied accounts of what happened — or was likely to have happened — the morning of June 5, 2010, when Tshamba, who was off duty, shot Tyrone Brown a dozen times in a Mount Vernon alley way, as bars were letting out.

“What happened in that alley dealt with male ego, alcohol, women and a gun,” Assistant State’s Attorney Kevin Wiggins said during his final arguments Thursday morning. “Anywhere you put that, that’s a bad combination.”

Brown, 32, had been drinking, and he groped one of Tshamba’s female companions that morning, sometime after 1 a.m. — that was one of the few uncontested facts in the case. But what happened afterward was harder to gauge, as testimony of one witness frequently contradicted the testimony of another.

Prosecutors said Tshamba was power-mad and angry, using his weapon to intimidate — and eventually kill — Brown, a much bigger man. The defense claimed Brown charged the officer, who had to react with lethal force to save his life and that of others’.

Defense attorneys entered a nine-page selection from the victim’s military records into evidence Thursday morning that showed Brown had a history of violence.

The judge’s decision came down to credibility and which witnesses he believed.

“The court rejects the defendant’s version of events,” Hargadon said.

Statements he made in court Wednesday and Thursday appeared to reveal some of his leanings, suggesting he didn’t quite believe that Tshamba, 37, acted reasonably as a trained police officer.

On Wednesday, he asked whether Tshamba should have shown a badge instead of his weapon and Thursday he asked about the relevance of Brown’s medical records. They show that Brown, a former Marine, had once beat up his stepfather and thrown a knife at his wife, and that he exhibited symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.

Defense attorney James L. Rhodes hammered home the idea that they showed Brown to be volatile, but the judge interrupted, to ask when these things occurred, pointing out that the report was written a year and a half before the shooting, dampening its effect.

Never allowed into evidence was Tshamba’s history as an officer. He was disciplined administratively in 1999 for “neglect of duty,” records show. And he was sanctioned in 2005 for a prior off-duty incident in which he was driving drunk and shot a man in the foot after an altercation. He was also sanctioned in 2006 after crashing his car into a light pole while driving without insurance.

During closing arguments Thursday, Rhodes systematically chipped away at the stories presented by the state’s witnesses and asked why Wiggins never presented other evidence — facts that Rhodes said were in Tshamba’s favor.

“This case for [the prosecution] was never a case about making fair decision,” Rhodes said. “It was about winning at all costs.”

To Wiggins, the man concerned with winning was Tshamba.

“Power is what the defendant had, and respect is what he wanted from Mr. Brown,” Wiggins told the court. And when Tshamba didn’t get what he wanted, he took it.

Said Wiggins: “He just started shooting and he wouldn’t stop.”

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