BALTIMORE (AP)—A Baltimore police officer accused of shooting an unarmed man a dozen times outside a nightclub was ordered held without bail Monday, and his attorney said the officer had been demonized by a police department eager to show that it punishes rogue cops.
Officer Gahiji A. Tshamba, 36, turned himself in early Sunday, more than a day after he was charged in a warrant with first-degree murder in the death of 32-year-old Tyrone Brown. The victim was a former Marine who served two tours in Iraq and had two children.
In comments to the judge and to reporters outside court, attorney Adam Sean Cohen said his client was not a cold-blooded killer but a police officer acting in his official capacity after he witnessed a crime—the groping of a woman by Brown.
Brown touched a woman on the buttocks and genital area, and Tshamba intervened, identifying himself as a police officer, Cohen said. He did not go into detail about what happened next beyond saying that the situation escalated. He did not dispute that the officer fired every round in his handgun.
“A police officer in fear of his life has to do what he has to do to preserve his life,” Cohen said. “You fire until the threat is gone… It seems pretty obvious that he unloaded his weapon because that’s what he needed to do.”
Tshamba fired 13 shots, and Brown was hit 12 times, according to charging documents. The shooting occurred at 1:30 a.m. on June 5, as patrons were spilling out of nightclubs in the Mount Vernon neighborhood north of downtown. Prosecutors interviewed several witnesses, some of whom said they did not hear Tshamba identify himself as an officer.
“I don’t believe it’s police policy or procedure to shoot an unarmed suspect,” Assistant State’s Attorney David Chiu said in court.
Andrew D. Freeman, an attorney for Brown’s relatives, said they “look forward to justice being done.”