Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

Police face suit over club melee

The family of a man killed outside a Baltimore nightclub in a shooting that also led to the death of a city police officer has filed a wrongful death lawsuit.

Sean Gamble’s family is seeking compensatory and punitive damages from the Baltimore Police Department and the owners of the Select Lounge and an adjacent parking lot for the Jan. 9, 2011, shooting, which also killed Officer William H. Torbit Jr. and wounded four others.

An external investigation of the incident found Gamble, 22, was “likely” shot by Torbit, who was killed by friendly fire from other officers. Torbit was wearing his badge around his neck but not his police vest and did not identify himself as a police officer.

The shooting was the culmination of a melee that began inside an “extremely overcrowded” Select Lounge, according to the lawsuit, filed Monday in Baltimore City Circuit Court.

The fight spilled outside after the nightclub’s owners decided to close the club, according to the lawsuit.

From there, the family’s account largely differs from the report of the official investigation into the shootings by an external panel.

According to the lawsuit, Gamble was moving toward his car after an officer used pepper spray on the crowd when a plainclothes officer began firing into the crowd, according to the lawsuit. The shots led the uniformed officers to fire into the crowd. Forty-two shots were fired in all; one struck Gamble in the chest as he was running away, according to the lawsuit.

Gamble, who was unarmed, was taken to the R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center at the University of Maryland Medical Center. He died at Shock Trauma, according to the lawsuit.

Gamble’s family is represented by Michael Paul Smith and Lauren M. Dodrill of Smith, Gildea & Schmidt LLC in Towson. Smith declined to comment Tuesday on the lawsuit, which does not state the total amount of damages sought.

The external panel’s investigation, released in November 2011, found Torbit waded into an argument outside the club without proper backup. Torbit, 33, was thrown to the ground during the fight and surrounded by as many as eight assailants, including Gamble, according to the report. Eight of the 42 shots were fired by Torbit, the investigators found; the panel determined Torbit was justified in firing his gun because he was “vastly outnumbered and lying on his back being beaten and kicked, with no backup officer assisting him.”

Police said in March 2012 they had adopted 33 recommendations suggested by investigators, including revised training and policies regarding undercover officer involvement in crowd control situations.

Torbit’s family held a protest outside City Hall last year on the two-year anniversary of his death, seeking another investigation of the shooting.