Reporting Mike Hellgren
BALTIMORE (WJZ) — An off-duty city police officer has been charged with killing an unarmed Marine outside a nightclub. One of Officer Gahiji Tshamba’s supervisors now says he appeared drunk that night.
Mike Hellgren has the latest developments from the courtroom.
This is just the start of what may well be an explosive trial. A witness testified the officer did not appear threatened when he unloaded his gun.
Officer Tshamba’s fate hinges on whether a judge believes he shot unarmed Marine Tyrone Brown to death in self-defense or murdered him in a drunken rage.
The incident happened almost a year ago off Charles Street in Mt. Vernon. Prosecutors say Tshamba, who was off duty, shot Brown 12 times with his service weapon because he was mad the Iraq war veteran inappropriately touched his female companion.
The first witness to take the stand testified Brown never threatened the officer, that he put his hands in the air and begged for his life.
“The way she said it, that’s the way it happened, that he shot him down in cold blood and I thought it was really touching,” said Elizabeth Eaton, a courtroom observer.
A police major testified Tshamba appeared drunk, glassy-eyed and slurring his words. He refused a Breathalyzer test that night.
“Whether he was drinking or not, that’s actually not our concern unless there was some reason that someone would imply the alcohol effect would happen,” said James Rhodes, Tshamba’s lawyer.
Brown was a father of two. The incident devastated his family, who filed a multi-million dollar civil suit against Tshamba.
“I don’t know what I’m going to do without him,” said his wife, Loren Brown.
The shooting also ignited a debate over whether officers should be allowed to carry service weapons when off duty.
“Any time they go to any establishment where they know there’s going to be alcohol, there has to be a bright yellow line that that’s unacceptable,” said Tyrone Powers, a former FBI agent.
Tshamba served 15 years on the force. He remains behind bars. He faces life in prison if convicted.
The major who testified Wednesday also said Tshamba did not appear injured after the incident.
The trial will resume Thursday.