Hunted officer turns self in

Baltimore Sun reporters

The Baltimore police officer facing a first-degree murder charge in the fatal shooting of an unarmed former Marine was ordered held without bail Monday morning, more than a day after his uncertain whereabouts triggered an intense search that ended when he surrendered with his attorney.

Gahiji A. Tshamba, a 15-year police veteran, was also charged Sunday with first- and second-degree assault and using a firearm in commission of a crime of violence in the shooting death of Tyrone Brown, 32, outside a Mount Vernon nightclub on June 5, according to charging documents.

With dozens of his fellow officers hunting for him and fliers depicting his face plastered all over the neighborhoods he frequented, Tshamba hadn't been heard from in more than a day since police obtained an arrest warrant with the charges. He had gone "off the grid," as police put it, not turning on his cell phone or communicating with family or his attorney.

Amid the furor, at 1:30 a.m., Tshamba quietly got himself to Central Booking and sat down in the lobby with his hands folded to wait for his attorney, said Robert Cherry, president of the police union.

A first-degree murder warrant was issued Friday afternoon, charging Tshamba in the killing of Brown, who was shot 12 times, according to charging documents. Police had previously said that Brown was hit nine times.

Baltimore police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said Sunday that he did not know what led Tshamba to turn himself in. But "we're grateful for that, and he did the right thing." Tshamba's attorney, Adam Sean Cohen, said Monday that his client was not a flight risk, blaming Tshamba's uncertain whereabouts over the weekend on a miscommunication.

Andrew D. Freeman, an attorney representing the Brown family, speaking on behalf of the victim's relatives, said Sunday: "We appreciate the efforts of the police in pressuring Officer Tshamba to turn himself in. We look forward to justice being done."

Brown's family and friends were among 100 people who gathered Saturday on the green in front of City Hall to celebrate his memory. Wearing T-shirts with Brown's photo and holding candles, they prayed and sent a dozen heart-shaped balloons into the sky.

Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III called Tshamba's actions an "aberration" in a police statement released early Sunday. Bealefeld, who was on vacation, has yet to comment further. Guglielmi said the commissioner was involved with efforts to find Tshamba and had authorized the influx of resources to locate him.

"He doesn't tolerate any behavior that undermines the integrity of the agency or the hard work that the men and women of BPD do each and every day," Guglielmi said Sunday.

Cherry, head of the city's Fraternal Order of Police and a former homicide detective, said the union doesn't "tolerate corrupt or bad cops, either." But Cherry said he was disturbed by what he described as a rush to judgment by the news media and the public in Tshamba's case.

"It's important that we allow Officer Tshamba his side of the story," Cherry said. "Now that he has turned himself in, the great thing about our country is the fact that people aren't tried and convicted in the press or by public opinion. Unfortunately, The [Baltimore] Sun paper has already tried and convicted Officer Tshamba with the assistance of high-level commissioners of BPD."

Detectives had passed out fliers Saturday with Tshamba's picture that described him as a "dangerous/high risk apprehension." Tshamba's lawyer said Saturday that his client had been frustrated with the public outcry over the incident and might have "sequestered himself."

His surrender came a week after the incident began in the early hours of June 5, when the off-duty officer fired 13 shots from his Glock service pistol at Brown during a confrontation in an alley in Mount Vernon, police and eyewitnesses said.

According to charging documents, police found no live rounds from Tshamba's handgun and recovered 13 casings from the .40-caliber weapon at the scene.

Witnesses said Brown touched a female companion of Tshamba's inappropriately. Angry, Tshamba drew his weapon and challenged Brown to "do it again." Witnesses and police sources said Brown's hands were raised in the air as Tshamba began firing.

Cohen said Monday that Tshamba placed himself on duty during the incident and that the officer's female companion had been sexually assaulted.

Police turned over their investigation to prosecutors within two days and said they had found no credible evidence to justify the shooting. The Sun reported Wednesday that Tshamba had been involved in a prior off-duty shooting in which he had been driving with a blood-alcohol level of .12, over the legal limit of .08 percent.

After the shooting, Tshamba was never under police surveillance.

Baltimore Sun reporters Jessica Anderson and Paul West contributed to this article.

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