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City to pay $200,000 to family of Marine veteran killed by off-duty police officer

Law EnforcementShootingsHomicideJustice SystemSafety of Citizens

Baltimore is poised to pay a $200,000 settlement to the family of a Marine veteran killed outside a Mount Vernon nightclub by an off-duty police officer in June 2010.

Though Gahiji Tshamba was not on the job when he shot 32-year-old Tyrone Brown 12 times, the victim's family argued in court filings that the city should share responsibility for the incident because Tshamba remained on the police force after several other off-duty arrests.

The settlement, due for consideration Wednesday by the Board of Estimates, would conclude a $270 million federal lawsuit filed in 2011 against police commanders, the state and the city. In it, Brown's family pointed to incidents including a 2005 shooting of a man in which Tshamba was driving drunk.

"To allow officers known to have or suspected to have such a propensity for unreasonable and excessive use of deadly and/or non-deadly force to have full police powers with the authority to carry and operate a handgun endangered public safety and welfare and represented a breach of duty on behalf of the defendants," the lawsuit said.

Tshamba was convicted of manslaughter in 2011 and sentenced to 15 years in prison for shooting Brown, who authorities said had inappropraitely touched Tshamba's female companion outside the bar around 1:30 a.m.

The family said in the lawsuit that Brown apologized for touching the woman, who attempted to hit him. Brown deflected the blow before Tshamba shouted threats and aimed his gun at him, the lawsuit said. The lawsuit said he raised his hands as Tshamba backed him down an alley before shooting him.

A Baltimore police spokesperson said Monday the department does not comment on pending litigation.

The Brown family's attorney, A. Dwight Pettit, declined to comment because of the pending Board of Estimates vote to approve the settlement.

City Councilman Brandon Scott, vice chairman of the public safety committee, said the incident should spur better training for police officers.

Scott said he hopes the settlement will ease the Brown family's pain somewhat.

"It's a sad case with the family," Scott said. "You just hope that this will help the family be a little more at peace, though they'll never fully be at peace."

City Solicitor George Nilson expects the settlement to be approved on the board's routine agenda without discussion.

He said the city decided this month that $200,000 was the maximum it was willing to pay the Browns. That amount, he added, is the most the city normally pays to settle such cases.

"The city is settling for a number which some might say is the maximum," Nilson said. "The plaintiff argued for higher numbers, but we said no. We were fairly firm in our position."

The Baltimore Sun reported in 2011 that Tshamba had been suspended from the police force for eight days in 2005 following an incident in which he drove drunk and shot a man in the foot while off duty. A year before that, he crashed his car into a light pole while driving without insurance or registration.

The civil lawsuit was filed by Brown's wife, Loren Brown; his mother, Vivian Scott; and two of his children. It also accuses the Police Department of not arresting Tshamba or taking a statement from him until a month after the shooting.

Circuit Judge Edward R.K. Hargadon told Tshamba he "showed a serious lack of insight ... and a disturbing sense of detachment" before sentencing him to seven years for voluntary manslaughter and eight years for using a handgun in a crime of violence, with an additional two-year term held in suspension.

"None of this had to happen," Hargadon said at the sentencing. "You seriously overreacted."

Information from The Sun's archives contributed to this article.

cmcampbell@baltsun.com

twitter.com/cmcampbell6

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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