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by Peter Moskos

June 9, 2010

What Flags?

Off-duty Baltimore officer Gahiji Tshamba, the guy who seems to have emptied his glock at and into a man for touching his girlfriend seems to have a bit of a history. "Investigators found 13 bullet casings at the scene and the officer's gun was empty. Nine of those bullets ended up hitting the ex-Marine, which some say is excessive."

The problem is not drinking and carrying a gun in a bar. The problem is being drunk while having a gun, a temper, and really bad judgment!

Meanwhile another Baltimore officer is on trial for an on-duty shooting. This case is not so clear cut and knowing nothing, I'm not willing to comment. But he is the first officer to be put on trial for an on-duty shooting since the Lexington Market police-involved shooting of James "Don't Shoot that Boy!" Quarles (I saw that video in the police academy--one officer shot, many didn't).

[Update on the life and career of Officer Tshamba.]


Anonymous said...

In other on duty shooting news, Mehserle got no African Americans on his jury.

DA is doing the old Black Sox routine.

Surprise, surprise.

Back to Tshamba: why on earth was he not arrested at the scene? I can think of some invalid reasons for not arresting, but no valid ones.

Tshamba redux: some are saying he went on-duty when he announced that he was police.

PCM said...

Technically, pretty much every time you "take action" in public, you're automatically on duty. It doesn't matter and won't change anything.

Police don't have any more right to shoot than anybody else. To oversimplify a bit, anybody can shoot in self-defense (or to save the life of somebody else). The only big difference is that police are given greater leeway in making honest mistakes.

Jeff said...

So theoretically someone could have intervened in an attempt to 'save the life of somebody else' and shot tshamba in the head before he finished emptying his clip?

Its a question I've been pondering, at what point are you allowed to defend yourself (or others) from a police beating/killing.

PCM said...

But you could only shoot after the cop shot (cause you shouldn't assume a cop with a gun pulling is going to pull the trigger) and you would have to shoot before the guy was actually.

Pumping more bullets into a dead guy isn't actually a lethal threat.

Regarding your last question (and I'm just saying what I think, I may be wrong), there is no clear-cut answer. It depends on state self-defense laws. And the officer would have to be acting illegally and maliciously and with intent to kill or cause serious bodily harm. It's an incredibly high legal burden of proof.

Jeff said...

What got me thinking of the question was this video. I might have been tempted to intervene if I was this guys brother who was standing there watching the beating.


(Which I also had read was another example of a cop doing the right thing. He saw the condition of the guy that was arrested, and went back and checked the other cops dash cam and saw the beating, and then turned him in)

Anonymous said...

Pumping more bullets into a dead guy isn't actually a lethal threat.

sure it is. It is irrational behavior by a nut with a gun. The threat is the nut will start shooting other people the moment he reloads. If one has a reasonable belief that he will start doing this then you don't have to wait for the nut to start actually shooting at other people at the scene.

PCM said...


This may surprise you, but I don't find that video that objectionable. I think I wrote about it somewhere in this blog.

The guy didn't comply. You don't have that option. One he got flat, the force stopped.

Sure I'm giving the cop some benefit of the doubt about the situation leading up to this situation.

To me it's an argument about the futility of the asp. (But I seem to be only cop who hates the asp.)

Cleanville Tziabatz said...

The guy didn't comply. You don't have that option. One he got flat, the force stopped.

And if the suspect had gotten down on the ground, a beating still would have been justified . . .


PCM said...

In both cases the person didn't comply. So yes.

Cleanville Tziabatz said...

1. I think he did comply with all the verbal commands that you can hear on the video. For example, the command we hear is "get down on the ground" (which the suspect did), not "put your face in the dirt" (which the suspect was attacked for failing to do). As another example, the command not to move came after the suspect was attacked a couple times for slightly moving his hands. It is not non-compliance because the command was complied with after it was actually given.

2. Supposedly the suspect turned out to be innocent. A supposed drug transaction was observed, but no drugs found. I have not found a link to confirm this, but that is the scuttlebutt.

3. http://www.bclocalnews.com/fraser_valley/abbynews/breaking_news/85834182.html?period=W&mpStartDate=04-21-2010&

Cleanville Tziabatz said...

4. as the suspect is walking in front of the policeman to the patrol car in handcuffs, the policeman says "stop resisting." wtf!?!?

PCM said...

Have you ever in your life tried to physically restrain somebody who resisted? Try it sometime. Maybe with somebody you love. It's not so easy.

My worst fight ever was with a guy I had just cuffed. He had his hands tied behind his back... literally. And I still couldn't win.

Cleanville Tziabatz said...

Be that as it may, in neither the Abbotsford video nor the Illinois one is the suspect resisting.

In the Abbotsford one the suspect is complying. In the Illinois one, the suspect may or may not have been complying (we can't tell because of lack of audio).

But in neither video is the suspect resisting. Non-compliance is not resistance, at least not in any meaningful sense.

In the Rodney King video the suspect was resisting and I think the force there was in the fuzzy grey zone between excessive and reasonable. However, the videos we are discussing on this thread are different from the Rodney King video in some very obvious and critical ways.

PCM said...

You're willing defend the beating of Rodney King as potentially more justified than these uses of force?


Not me.

Cleanville Tziabatz said...

I don't know if I would exactly say I defend it. I think it is a tough borderline case that reasonable people could go either way on. I think the one verdict in one of the civil suit was that it was justified except for the last few baton strikes. That seemed like a good assessment as any.

Things were so different then. Instead of police taking the video when it was offered them and then destroying it (which is what would happen now), they refused to take it at all, which is what prompted the cameraman to take it to the media. It is very interesting to see how attitudes have evolved -- about police use of force (by both police and the general public), about police reaction to videos, about all this stuff.

PCM said...

I think Rodney King was criminally assaulted in what might be called a good ol' fashioned country ass-whuppin'.

But what do I know?

Cleanville Tziabatz said...

seems like a reasonable position to me.

I was not happy to see those one in Philadelphia get their jobs back recently -- but I never could determine from the media reports whether the beaten suspects had done the shooting or not. Not sure whether that matters, but I was always curious about that.

Jeff said...

It is such a thin line between acceptable use of force and assault. I do not envy the police, especially when getting it wrong could cost the cop his life.

If that cop in the video I linked had hit the guy a little less, he might not be prosecuted. Or if he had a nightstick instead of that retractable thing, the guy might have complied quickly (I doubt that guy could do anything quickly though, he looked to be extremely drunk in the full video)

I don't have an acceptable (in my mind) solution though. We need cops to take these jobs, but if they go even slightly overboard, they need to pay the price.

I hate the blue line, but I understand why it exists.