A Baltimore jury found Thursday that a city officer acted reasonably when he killed an off-duty member of the force while responding to a fight at a Southeast Baltimore strip club.
The widow of Officer Norman Stamp, a 44-year veteran who was fatally shot in April 2008, sued Officer John Torres, alleging that he "wrongly prejudged" the situation and that the Police Department didn't aggressively investigate the circumstances of the shooting.
The trial lasted about two weeks, during which jurors visited the Haven Place club where the shooting occurred. Jurors took only a few hours to decide in favor of Torres, the Daily Record reported on its website Thursday afternoon.
Police have said that Stamp, 65, who was hanging out with members of his motorcycle club, rushed out of the bar with brass knuckles. Torres struck him with a Taser, then fired two shots when Stamp reached for his service weapon, police said. As he lay dying, Stamp identified himself as an officer.
In opening statements, Peter McDowell, an attorney for Stamp's widow, Suzanne Stamp, said that the police account did not mesh with descriptions from witnesses and forensic experts gathered by a private investigator.
For example, McDowell claimed that Stamp was shot while standing at the top of stairs leading out of the club, though Torres said he was at the top of the stairs and had shot downward at Stamp. McDowell said that Torres impulsively shot Stamp as he left the strip club for the night unaware of the police action outside.
But Torres' attorney, Troy A. Priest, dismissed those claims and said the officer was in fear for his life and followed his training.
McDowell said Thursday that Suzanne Stamp was "obviously disappointed in the jury's verdict," but said she was content that the other accounts of the night were "now part of the public record."
Priest did not return a message seeking comment.
The lawsuit initially alleged that Torres was hired as part of a Baltimore Police Department policy to "hire untrained Puerto Rican applicants to assist with the Spanish-speaking community within Baltimore City." It said the applicants were hired with "blatant disregard for the safety of the public" and kept to maintain a quota of Spanish-speaking officers.
The department and city were later removed as defendants.
Testimony included how the shooting had affected both sides; friends of Stamp said his wife was devastated and still talks about Stamp as if he is alive. Torres' attorney said his client suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder.