City officer accused of fatally shooting unarmed man pleads not guilty

Jury trial of Tshamba in Mount Vernon incident set for Nov. 12

August 04, 2010|By Brent Jones, The Baltimore Sun

A Baltimore police officer accused of fatally shooting an unarmed former Marine outside a Mount Vernon nightclub pleaded not guilty in a court hearing Wednesday.

Gahiji A. Tshamba, a 15-year police veteran, is scheduled to stand trial before a city jury on Nov. 12.

Tshamba entered the courtroom dressed in a dark suit with shackles around his wrists, ankles and waist and did not speak during the arraignment. He is being held without bail and has been suspended from the Police Department.

One of his lawyers, James Rhodes, called the restraints overkill. "He was brought in similar to a cannibal," Rhodes said. He later added that his client "is just anxious to have his day in court."

Tshamba was with friends in an alley off East Eager Street, near Club Hippo's back door, when he got into a confrontation with Tyrone Brown, 32, in the early hours of June 5. According to witnesses, Brown groped one of Tshamba's female companions. Prosecutors say Tshamba confronted Brown and fired 13 rounds from his service weapon, hitting Brown a dozen times in the chest and groin.

Brown, an Iraq veteran, died less than an hour later.

Attorneys for Tshamba have said that the officer put himself on duty in response to what he saw as a sexual assault and that he fired the shots because he was in fear for his life. Rhodes said Wednesday that Tshamba's actions that night "were consistent with his training" and that he has no indication that his client had been drinking before the altercation.

If convicted of first-degree murder, Tshamba faces a maximum sentence of life in prison without parole, plus a possible 20 additional years if he is also found guilty of using a handgun to commit a felony and crime of violence.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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