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Messy Response Added To Chaos In Police Shooting

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WJZ general assignment reporter Mike Hellgren came to Maryland's News...
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BALTIMORE (WJZ)— A critical new report about the night a city police officer was killed by fellow cops has been released.

Officers fired more than 40 shots, leaving two dead—including one of their own. Now a review panel cites major leadership and training failures. 

Mike Hellgren has the fallout and the investigation.

CitiWatch camera video WJZ obtained shows Officer William Torbit’s final moments, responding in plainclothes after a fight turned out of control outside a downtown club.

A new independent review reveals the police response was also out of control. Uniformed officers who responded did not realize Torbit was one of their own. He fired his weapon into the crowd attacking him. Then, officers began firing, and when it was over Officer Torbit was dead.

His devastated family is still struggling to understand why police were unable even to determine whose bullet killed him.

“It appears that they are trying to put this incident under the rug,” said Tiffany Clark, officer’s sister. “But we’re going to continue to fight for truth and justice.”

The report revealed numerous breakdowns, including inadequate training, a disorganized response, lack of leadership and failures in the investigation.

“It only took 6 seconds; 42 shots were fired, only by the police,” said James Stewart, review board chair.

“You know where to shoot to make a person hit the ground,” said Sherri Torbit, victim’s sister . “Once they do that, you’re already down. Why continue to shoot?”

“There were a serious of mistakes and tragic consequences,” said Commissioner Fred Bealefeld.   

Among them: no command post, officers being rude to witnesses and waiting months to start an internal investigation.

The officers involved are still all on administrative leave.  The supervisors were never punished. And they never talked, even after the commissioner ordered them to do so, “which we thought hampered the investigation and also handicapped the police department,” Stewart said.

“I was not interested in having a glossy version of what happened, but we were digging deep,” said Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake. 

The independent review found Officer Torbit and the four uniformed officers did use deadly force within police policy but never had the training they needed to prevent this tragedy.

“My brother–rest his soul–did his job, performed as an officer, and we just want the truth to come out. We want justice in honor of him,” Tiffany Clark said.

The report contains 33 recommendations. Mayor Rawlings-Blake and Commissioner  Bealefeld want to implement all of them, or at least most of them, within the next 90 days. The State’s Attorney declined to press any criminal charges in this investigation.

The civilian killed on that tragic day was Sean Gamble. He was 22.

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