Reporting Gigi Barnett
BALTIMORE (WJZ)— Guilty of manslaughter—not of murder. That’s the judge’s decision for the city police officer on trial for the shooting death of a Marine.
Gigi Barnett explains the victim’s family is happy with the verdict.
Despite Officer Gahiji Tshamba not being found guilty of the harsher first- or second-degree murder charges, the family is calling the verdict a victory.
The judge spared Tshamba a murder conviction, but said he believed he was drunk and that he never should have pulled out a weapon when a man touched his female friend’s buttocks. He found him guilty of manslaughter and a felony handgun crime.
Tshamba was driven off in a correction van minutes after a judge found him guilty of the felony crimes. He faces 30 years in prison for killing unarmed Marine Tyrone Brown outside a nightclub in Mount Vernon.
The victim’s widow says she’s “elated.”
“We really are. It’s been tough, but we are very happy with the verdict,” said Lauren Brown.
And the judge says only one witness was credible. Brown’s sister, who watched the tragic incident. She watched 12 bullets pierce her brother’s body.
“I was here for the justice for my brother,” said Chantay Kangalee. “And all I could do is tell the truth. And that’s what I did.”
She said her brother begged for his life, that this was not self-defense. The judge believed Tshamba never identified himself as a police officer and grossly overreacted.
“Manslaughter is a murder conviction,” said prosecuting attorney Kevin Wiggins. “We see this as a victory for the family and the citizens of Baltimore City. A bad cop is off the streets. He does not represent the many men and women who risk their lives every day. He is a bad shining light on those good officers who do what they do every day.”
But the judge did believe one component of Officer Tshamba’s testimony.
“The court rejects the defendant’s version of the facts, does not believe the defendant when he testified he identified himself as a police officer [and] that he had consumed only one beer,” Judge Edward Hargadon wrote. “There is one portion of the defendant’s testimony which this court does find credible: the defendant was afraid.”
“I’m not sure legally that you can find that the officer, you believe that the officer was scared and not believe that he had the right to take the action that he did,” said defense attorney James Rhodes.
The judge also said Tshamba was trying to defend the honor of his female friend, and no reasonable officer would use this kind of force.
“My brother was my best friend,” Kangalee said with tears. “And it was only right for me to stand up for him.”
When the verdict was read in the courtroom, Tshamba’s family cried and gasped. But for the first time, the victim’s mother spoke to the media after the verdict was read.
The victim’s family left the courtroom, holding each other, still shaken by the year’s worth of mourning and judicial proceedings.
Brown’s mother took several minutes to collect herself to say this about the case:
“Cops are not above the law. Not above the law. He has to go to jail just like everybody else, for doing the crime. He murdered my son. But as [for] Tshamba, the officer, I never will forgive him,” said Vivian Scott, victim’s mother.
She did not comment on the fact that Tshamba was only found guilty of manslaughter, versus being found guilty of murder. However, she and her daughter-in-law have already filed a multi-million dollar lawsuit in this case against the officer and the city. That is still pending.
The defense says they will appeal the judge’s ruling.
Sentencing in this case is scheduled for August.