Reporting Mike Hellgren
BALTIMORE (WJZ)—A Baltimore police officer takes the stand. He’s accused of killing an unarmed Marine outside a city nightclub. On Wednesday, he testified in his own defense.
Mike Hellgren explains what Officer Gahiji Tshamba had to say.
Tshamba says without a doubt, his life was in danger. Under cross-examination, he said his account differs from some eyewitnesses, even some people called by his own defense team.
Tshamba had no blood on the white shirt he was wearing, no injuries to his hands or neck, despite his testimony that he and Tyrone Brown were in a physical struggle when he shot him several times at close range.
“The only blood at that scene was where Mr. Brown lay after he fell,” said James Rhodes, defense attorney.
It’s the first time Tshamba gave his own account of the night he shot an unarmed Marine, saying it started when Brown grabbed his female friend’s buttocks and then tried to hit her.
Then Tshamba says he told Brown, “I’m a police officer. Put your hands up. Back away…down on your knees.”
He says Brown refused. He then took out his weapon. Brown swung at him, hitting his shoulder, then chased him down.
Tshamba testified, “I was scared. I was in fear.”
He then said he fired the gun. But Brown kept coming, hands out reaching for the weapon.
“It did not appear that he was being shot,” Tshamba testified. “He was still coming toward me the entire time.”
The two came in contact, struggling.
“He was overpowering me,” Tshamba told the judge. “I believed that he was going to take the weapon from me. He was literally trying to rip the weapon from my hands.”
Tshamba says he shot until Brown released his grip and then retreated.
“I didn’t know where I shot him,” Tshamba said.
“He answered the questions openly and honestly,” Rhodes said. “Honestly, I expected a much longer cross-examination than we received this morning. But the truth is the truth.”
The judge also heard from Charles Key, who wrote the Baltimore City Police policy on use of force. He testified the shooting was justified because Brown assaulted a woman, refused police orders, and tests showed that Brown had a blood alcohol level three times the legal level. Combined with his Marine training, that made him a danger to the officer.
The defense is very close to wrapping up its case, and prosecutors have refused to comment.
The defense resumes its case Thursday morning. The judge may make a ruling by the end of the week.