Reporting Derek Valcourt
BALTIMORE (WJZ) — A federal judge gives the go ahead to a lawsuit filed by the family of an unarmed Marine shot 12 times by a Baltimore City police officer outside of a nightclub. If the lawsuit succeeds, the city could pay out millions for the actions of a police officer already convicted in criminal court.
Derek Valcourt has more on the lawsuit and the city’s effort to stop it.
The city wanted the case thrown out but a judge ruled against them Wednesday.
Officer Gahiji Tshamba was already convicted on manslaughter charges for the 2010 killing of Tyrone Brown, 24. Tshamba was leaving a Mount Vernon nightclub with friends when he shot the unarmed Marine 12 times with his police-issued weapon in a dispute over a woman. While Tshamba awaits sentencing, a lawsuit filed by the victim’s family moves full speed ahead in a federal court. This ruling from a federal judge allows the police department, the police commissioner and even the mayor to be sued under a federal law for failing to stop an officer who, the plaintiff’s attorneys say, had a history of misconduct.
“There were several things that should have raised the red flag to the Baltimore City police department,” said lawyer, Dwight Pettit.
At issues, says Pettit, is a 1998 incident in which Tshamba shot a man in the back who he believed had opened fire; Tshamba’s 2001 arrest of a woman who was later strip-searched because she didn’t sign a traffic ticket correctly; and a 2005 incident in which Tshamba was found to be intoxicated when he shot a man in the foot.
Legal expert Byron Warnken says federal court could allow for higher financial damages as the victim’s family tries to prove the city is liable for Tshamba’s actions.
“The reason our loved one is dead is in part the blame of police supervisors, the police commissioner, people up through and including the mayor, whose job it was to stay on the alert to make sure that people like this aren’t out there, just one trigger pull away from me and you dying,” Warnken said.
Tshamba is scheduled for sentencing in his criminal case in August. He faces up to 30 years in prison.
Legal experts say the civil lawsuit against Tshamba and the city could take two to three years to wind its way through the federal court system.