The Baltimore police officer under investigation for killing a fellow bar patron Saturday was involved in an off-duty shooting in 2005 in which investigators determined he was driving with a 0.12 percent blood-alcohol level before firing his weapon, according to documents obtained by The Baltimore Sun.
In that incident, Officer Gahiji A. Tshamba told investigators that he was behind the wheel of his Nissan 350Z in the 5900 block of Pulaski Highway about 2:20 a.m. when several men in a sport utility vehicle pulled up beside him and began yelling racial epithets before driving off. He said he followed the vehicle into a residential neighborhood, when the driver turned around and struck his car. The men got out and advanced toward him, records show.
Tshamba said he fired several rounds, then pursued the men after they ran into the woods, firing more shots after some of the men came back. A juvenile was later determined to have been struck in the foot, according to records.
The men, two of whom were charged and later cleared, said that they accidentally cut off Tshamba's vehicle before Tshamba started chasing them. They acknowledged, however, that they tried to ram Tshamba's car, and the shooting victim said he was too drunk to remember any details of the incident. Both of the men have faced serious charges since then.
A year later, Tshamba lost control of the Nissan while driving at 2 a.m. in the 4100 block of Pulaski Highway, hopping the curb and crashing into a van and a city light pole at a gas station, according to police and court records. Alcohol was not listed as a factor in the traffic report. Tshamba's vehicle was found to be uninsured and unregistered, and he was disciplined internally, according to records.
Police released the investigative and accident reports in response to a public records request from The Baltimore Sun. The 2005 shooting was determined to be justified, but police say Tshamba was "disciplined" internally because he was intoxicated. They would not elaborate on the punishment, citing personnel confidentiality.
Police had not previously disclosed that Tshamba had been operating a vehicle under the influence; court records did not indicate whether Tshamba ever faced traffic charges.
Those details came to light as prosecutors consider charges against Tshamba in the shooting of former Marine Tyrone Brown, 32, who touched a female companion of Tshamba's early Saturday in Mount Vernon and was shot nine times at close range in an alley behind the Red Maple club in the 900 block of N. Charles St. Tshamba fired 13 shots in all.
Tshamba has not given a statement and refused a Breathalyzer test, and detectives say they don't know why Tshamba might have felt he needed to use deadly force.
Police quickly completed the initial investigation and passed it along to prosecutors Monday morning. Prosecutors reinterviewed witnesses Monday and Tuesday, and planned to bring in the rest on Wednesday.
"This is a very fluid investigation that involves both police and prosecutors," said Margaret T. Burns, a spokeswoman for State's Attorney Patricia C. Jessamy. "There is a lot of give and take, a lot of exchange of information. We intend to follow the process."
Attempts to reach Tshamba and friends and relatives have been unsuccessful.
Confrontation leads to shots
Detectives who responded to the 2005 shooting scene in the Armistead Gardens development saw Tshamba's 2003 Nissan with heavy damage to the driver's side front and midsection. Spent shell casings were recovered from the street, and crime scene technicians found a broken plastic beer bottle and a full plastic beer bottle, the report said.
An Eastern District lieutenant suspected that Tshamba was "suffering from the effects of alcohol" and ordered him to submit to a Breathalyzer test, which revealed that his blood-alcohol level was 0.12 percent, above the legal limit of 0.08 percent.
Tshamba said in a written statement that he was stopped at a traffic light when a large SUV pulled up. He said he looked over and saw that the men were yelling at him, and rolled down his window. They were yelling racial epithets, and one spat on his driver's side window as he rolled it back up.
When the SUV pulled off, he said, he followed it onto Armistead Way in an attempt to obtain the registration information and call 911. He said he could not keep up with the vehicle and was not familiar with the area, and pulled over to place the emergency call.
Tshamba said he next saw the SUV accelerate toward him and smash into his vehicle. Tshamba got out and ordered the men in it to stop as they pulled away, and said they got out of the car and walked toward him, saying "kill that n-----" and throwing bottles at him, he said.
"The subjects continued to advance on Officer Tshamba, and based on their actions and statements he was in fear that he would be killed," detectives wrote in the report.