Two top police commanders said Thursday that four witnesses — two friends of victim Tyrone Brown and two bystanders — corroborated that version of events in taped interviews with homicide detectives and prosecutors.
Police sources with knowledge of preliminary autopsy findings said the medical examiner found a heat imprint from a muzzle blast on Brown's shirt, a condition known as stippling. Such an imprint is created when a weapon is fired from as close as five inches away. The finding could be used to show that Brown was executed at close range, but it could also indicate that he was shot while advancing on the officer.
Police officials, who requested not to be identified in part to distance themselves for now from a highly sensitive case, have taken the unusual step of releasing details of an investigation as part of an effort to defuse public anger that Tshamba has not been charged with a crime.
They say they are frustrated that prosecutors might extend the investigation into next week, delaying the arrest of the 15-year veteran officer.
Officials with the Baltimore state's attorney's office declined to comment on the investigation. State's Attorney Patricia C. Jessamy said during a radio appearance Thursday that her department was "moving forward expeditiously."
Police worry that further delays will add to mounting public suspicion that authorities are protecting one of their own. The unusually harsh criticism, shrouded behind anonymous sources, appears designed to shift public anger over Tshamba's not having been arrested to the prosecutorial arena.
"We handed prosecutors our case Monday morning," said one top police official, who spoke on the condition he not be named. The lead investigator on the case "has slowly interviewed everyone and went to the crime scene. That's fine, but our position is we would like to proceed as soon as possible."
Said another commander: "In this case, the best we can see, there is no reason for this man to have been shot as many times as he was. Homicide is convinced that the evidence is very clear. This is not a complex case. … There was no physical confrontation. He had his hands up when he was shot."
Speaking with Clarence M. Mitchell IV on WBAL radio, Jessamy said she planned to meet with prosecutors Friday to discuss the case. But she cautioned that doesn't mean charges are imminent.
"I'm not the general public," Jessamy said. "I can't offer opinions. I have to make decisions based on the law, the facts and the evidence. … We will be moving forward expeditiously."
Despite a swift police investigation, prosecutors say they are awaiting the autopsy report and want to talk with officers who responded to the scene. They have already reinterviewed the seven witnesses.
Privately, officials in the prosecutor's office note that because this is Tshamba's second off-duty shooting of a civilian in five years, they want to make sure the case is handled properly.
In 2005, Tshamba was driving under the influence of alcohol when he got into a confrontation with a group of young men in a sport utility vehicle who he said shouted racial epithets at him. Tshamba followed the car into a residential neighborhood, where the other driver turned his vehicle and rammed the officer. Tshamba chased the men into a wooded area, firing his weapon. A juvenile was hit in the foot.
Tshamba received an eight-day suspension for the incident but avoided criminal charges and dismissal. Prosecutors now privately question whether top police administrators were too lenient in allowing him to remain on the force. As one official said: "They expect us to clean up their mess."
Officials in both the department and state's attorney's office say the pressure from the public, the news media and within their own offices has made the investigation complex and politically charged. One official in the prosecutor's office cautioned that many cases "are not as easy and cut-and-dried and slam-dunks as people want us to believe."
Andrew C. White, a former federal prosecutor who is now a defense attorney, said the state's attorney's office should proceed slowly to build a solid case.