Facing a possible arrest over the fatal shooting of an unarmed former Marine after a night of club-hopping, Baltimore Police Officer Gahiji A. Tshamba continues to pop in to the Eastern District station where he worked for years.
Here, the 15-year veteran is among friends and colleagues, known not as a killer enraged by slights over a woman but as the quiet, studious-looking officer who, as one colleague put it, would "do anything to help you."
His visits to the Edison Highway station have been brief. Relieved of his gun and badge, his arrest powers suspended, he is, fellow officers said, pondering his next steps — and the possibility of going to jail.
Tshamba has not spoken publicly since the Saturday shooting in the bar district, and no family members or friends have shared details about the night in question or events that led to it.
Still, his life is receiving intense scrutiny. Court records and police investigative reports reveal a troubled past in which Tshamba has trod to the financial brink and managed to skirt serious discipline for questionable conduct.
He has faced civil lawsuits over paternity, child support and unpaid back rent.
His wages have been garnished, and he has declared bankruptcy.
Women, bank creditors, a landlord and a gas-station owner have chased or are still chasing him for what they claim are unpaid debts.
Fellow officers describe Tshamba as quiet, experienced and reliable — the one who taught young officers in the Eastern how to file reports and handle calls, the one placed in charge when the sergeant was absent.
"That's why I'm quite shocked to hear this happened," said a police officer who requested anonymity because department rules forbid talking to the news media without permission from top commanders. "He's really a very, very likable guy."
But his most serious professional troubles stem from late-night encounters following alcohol use. Police say they are trying to determine whether a potent combination of booze and weaponry contributed to a loss of control when Tyrone Brown was shot nine times outside a bar early Saturday after he patted the rear end of the officer's female companion.
As city police privately press prosecutors to quickly charge Tshamba in the shooting, high-level police officials are also raising questions about whether he should have been allowed to remain on the force after a 2005 incident in which he was off-duty and driving drunk when he shot a man in the foot after an altercation.
Police ruled the shooting justified and according to a department source suspended him for eight days — resulting in seven days' lost pay — for using his gun while impaired.
A rowhouse with flowers
Tshamba, a reserved and smallish man who in photographs looks more like an R&B singer than a streetwise officer, grew up in the Baltimore area and has three siblings, including twin brothers, records indicate. No one responded when reporters visited their homes, scattered from North Baltimore's Winston-Gardens to Bolton Hill. They and others, including the father's ex-wife, who lives in Woodlawn, did not respond to interview requests.
Public records for family members point back to the same three-story brick rowhouse on West North Avenue owned by Kaleb Tshamba, identified in a court divorce file as the officer's 60-year-old father. Virtually every relative has listed that address as a residence at one time or another over the past decade. The home appears occupied, but nobody has answered the door on repeated visits or responded to notes requesting interviews.
Plants hang in the windows and flowers bloom in a pot outside. A sign in the window warns: "No loitering or sitting on the steps. Will result in your arrest. By order of the Baltimore Police Department."
The home's answering machine asks callers to leave a message if they want to schedule an event at the Arch Social Club, located a few blocks to the east at West North and Pennsylvania avenues. Founded in 1912, it is one of the city's oldest African-American clubs and was once a venue for famous jazz musicians.
Kaleb Tshamba keeps a poetry journal on an Internet site called ChickenBones, described as a literary publication of African-American themes. The elder Tshamba has written a lengthy personal history describing growing up in southern Baltimore's Westport public housing developments and being one of the first black families there in 1956.