The police officers involved in a fatal shooting outside a downtown club appeared Monday before a panel charged with reviewing the incident, but refused to answer questions.
James K. "Chips" Stewart, the chair of the commission, said the city police officers declined to answer questions on the advice of their attorneys, who said they feared that the officers could face internal sanctions based on their testimony.
"While they agreed with our overall goals, there were specific areas where they think their clients could be in definite jeopardy," Stewart said.
"They were the officers that had a unique perspective, since they were there and saw the incident unfolding," said Stewart, a policy analyst and former police commander. "While we have all the evidence about what they did, we did not have some of the reasons for it. We wanted to be sure they had an opportunity to express those reasons, and they didn't."
The panel of experts was appointed by Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake in February to conduct an independent study of the Jan. 9 shooting that left city Officer William H. Torbit Jr. and civilian Sean Gamble dead outside the Select Lounge club in the 400 block of N. Paca St.
The commission's review is separate from the criminal investigation and from any internal disciplinary review conducted by the Police Department.
Michael E. Davey, an attorney for the city police union, confirmed that the officers were "ordered to appear, and they all did appear." He declined to comment on why the officers did not testify.
Robert F. Cherry, president of the city police union, also declined to comment.
State's Attorney Gregg L. Bernstein cleared the officers on Aug. 4 of criminal wrongdoing. At that time, Rawlings-Blake said she was pressing the commission to conclude its work.
But Monday's proceedings could indicate the group still has work ahead. Stewart said the officers had first been asked to testify in July, but that it "fell through at the last minute." He said the commission insisted that the officers be ordered to appear, "which the [police] commissioner did." The commission has previously interviewed officers involved in the homicide investigation, he said.
Hearings have not been open to the public, and the commission has not been granted subpoena power, though police officials have required the officers to attend.
Stewart said despite the lack of testimony from the officers involved in the shooting, the panel's work is nearing a conclusion.
"We do see the finish line approaching, and we'll have some information we believe will be very helpful to the Baltimore Police Department," Stewart said.
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