Reporting Mike Hellgren
BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Baltimore City now faces a multi-million dollar civil lawsuit, in part for keeping Officer Gahiji Tshamba on the police force—despite his troubled past. On Thursday, a judge found Tshamba guilty of manslaughter for shooting an unarmed Marine.
Mike Hellgren has the follow-up.
The victim’s family says they want change. In their civil suit, they question whether officers are properly trained and whether what happened at that Mount Vernon night club one year ago could have been prevented.
As the family of Tyrone Brown left the courthouse, you see their attorney Dwight Pettit close by. Minutes before, he was in the courtroom when a judge said Tshamba overreacted when he shot Brown a dozen times.
Pettit represents the family in a $270 million lawsuit against the city.
“How many more Tshambas do you have out there carrying lethal weapons and having to make decisions on life and death?” Pettit asked. “It raises very, very strong questions about whether or not he should have been armed and on the street as a police officer in the first place.”
The shooting destroyed Tshamba’s career and devastated Brown’s family.
“Tshamba, the officer, I never will forgive him,” said Vivian Scott, Brown’s mother.
Over the past four years, the city has paid out more than $7 million to settle police misconduct claims.
Tshamba had a troubled past. Police found he was drunk and suspended him in 2005 after he shot George McAleer, who spoke to WJZ exclusively last year.
“He was just going crazy,” McAleer said. “No announcement he was a police officer.”
WJZ’s media partner the Baltimore Sun reported in 2006 that Tshamba crashed into a light pole and didn’t have his license or registration. And in 2001, he arrested a woman because of the way she signed a ticket.
“It’s quite disturbing that something is systemically wrong with our police department,” Pettit said.
Police say shootings involving officers are down, and they’re re-training officers. That’s little consolation to Brown’s sister, who has to live the rest of her life without him.
“My brother was my best friend,” said Chantay Kangalee in tears, “and it was only right for me to stand up for him.”
Tshamba may be sentenced to 30 years in jail for manslaughter and a handgun violation. He plans to appeal.
The civil lawsuit also questions why police did not make Tshamba take a breathalyzer test and why they did not immediately arrest him.