Reporting Mike Schuh
BALTIMORE (WJZ)– A chaotic scene at a downtown Baltimore nightclub in January. It ends with a plainclothes police officer shot and killed at the hands of other officers responding to a fight. Prosecutors announce those other officers will not be charged.
Mike Schuh has more on the prosecutor’s decision.
It was clear that the prosecutor said that the other officers responding to that massive fight did not know that William Torbit was under cover. And though they fired 40 shots, 20 of which hit Torbit, they did nothing criminal.
While everyone agrees that what happened that night at Select Lounge in January is a tragedy, no police officers will be charged in the death of fellow Officer Torbit.
Outside that night was a fight involving a woman. Police say eight-year vet and undercover cop Torbit shoots to death a club-goer. In the ruckus, his badge is not seen by arriving officers who witness the shooting incident happen, and unleash over 40 shots. Nearly two dozen hit Torbit, killing him.
After what they feel is too much delay, Officer Torbit’s family put pressure on the city to punish the officers who shot him.
“We’ve come to our own conclusion that you obviously are covering-up the death of Officer Torbit,” a relative of Officer Torbit said.
“I’m optimistic that we’ll be able to provide a full review,” said Baltimore Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld.
Their investigation takes four months. Without making their findings public, the internal report is turned over to the prosecutor. At the same time, the mayor commissioned an independent review.
“I wish it was over yesterday,” said Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake. “But we have to do things carefully and properly to make sure it’s right.”
In this case, from the prosecutor’s point of view, right doesn’t include charges.
“My responsibility is to determine whether there were any violations of criminal law caused by any intentional conduct on the part of these officers that would have amounted to a violation of criminal law,” said Gregg Bernstein, City State’s Attorney. “In that regard, I do not believe there is sufficient evidence.”
“That don’t fit right with me,” said Sherri Torbit, the victim’s sister.
She believes police and prosecutors closed ranks.
“That’s what I believe,” she added. ”Yes, it’s a cover-up.”
Bernstein denies that it is a cover up.
Thursday afternoon, the mayor says the case files will become public.
“Now that the prosecution’s made its decision, I’m having our law department review our investigative file,” Rawlings-Blake said. “We will review it and do what we need to do to make it available for the public as soon as possible.”
This case did not go before a grand jury. Bernstein made the decision. The mayor’s review will be out in a couple of weeks and is expected to focus on operational and possible training breakdowns within the department.
Though no criminal charges will be filed, it is possible the families of both dead men could sue the city and the officers in civil court.