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Prosecution rests in Tshamba murder trial

The murder prosecution of police officer Gahiji Tshamba rested Monday afternoon, concluding a three-day presentation that showed what can happen when alcohol, testosterone and a gun are combined, and setting the stage for the defense’s counter-narrative in Baltimore City Circuit Court.

Judge Edward R.K. Hargadon, who will decide the 37-year-old officer’s guilt or innocence, heard from another eye witness — this time a friend of the victim’s sister — as well as a quartet of police department employees involved in the closely watched case.

Tammy Lynn Dodge, a diminutive woman who lived across the street from Tyrone Brown’s sister and was out with them at Eden’s Lounge in Mount Vernon the night of June 4, 2010, told a story that was similar to last week’s testimony by an unrelated bystander, including Brown’s pleas to Tshamba seconds before he was shot a dozen times.

Brown, 32, hurriedly identified himself as a Marine and a father of two and apologized repeatedly for slapping Tshamba’s female companion, who was wearing short shorts, on the behind, according to Dodge. Brown held his hands up and walked backward toward a nearby dumpster.

“And then the next thing I hear is a gunshot,” Dodge said, adding that she heard six shots before she saw Brown fall to the ground.

“I ran over to Tyrone and I was like, ‘Are you OK?’” Dodge testified. “And he was like, ‘I got shot, I got shot.’”

Dodge said a woman who appeared to be with Tshamba identified herself as medic and ministered to the dying Brown as his sister tried to perform CPR.

“He rolled a little bit and then he didn’t move,” Dodge said.

On cross-examination, Tshamba’s lead attorney, James L. Rhodes, asked Dodge about how much she and Brown had had to drink that night and how much of the incident she actually saw.

When she said she had four Miller Lites, Rhodes showed her a photo from that night holding a mixed drink. She said it was Brown’s sister’s drink and that the photographer instructed her to hold a drink in that photo. And when she claimed to have seen 95 percent of the confrontation, he cited her previous testimony about not hearing some of the conversation between Tshamba and Brown and some of the subsequent shots.

Rhodes questioned the ability of the last prosecution witness, firearms examiner Christopher Faber, to testify at all, even though Hargadon ruled pretrial that Faber could testify about the limited shell case ejection test he performed to approximate how the bullet casings from Tshamba’s gun would have fallen at the crime scene.

But when Faber, a chatty former Philadelphia policeman, took the stand Monday afternoon, Rhodes made the most of the opportunity he had hoped he would never have. He got Faber to admit that the shooter’s height, strength and grip on the gun could affect how the casings flew and landed — variables that Faber did not account for in the controlled lab setting.

Emphasizing the defense theory of the case, Rhodes asked whether a “scuffle” might have influenced where the shower of casings came to rest.

“It is possible,” Faber said. “I cannot eliminate that at all.”

Faber conceded that there were multiple series of events that could have led to the array of casings behind the East Eager Street grocery store.

“There’s different scenarios that could have occurred,” he said.

On redirect, Assistant State’s Attorney Kevin Wiggins asked Faber if the casings were consistent with Tshamba backing up against the dumpster and shooting. Faber said that was “highly unlikely.”

The police sergeant who drove Tshamba to the hospital after the incident and two crime lab workers also testified Monday.

Charles J. Key, the former commanding officer of the Baltimore Police Department’s firearms training unit and a defense expert in the case, is likely to testify in the defense case. Key, now a consultant in civil and criminal litigation involving police officers, has been very active during trial, frequently consulting with Rhodes and co-counsel Adam Sean Cohen.