WILLIAM H. TORBIT, SR., et al.
BALTIMORE CITY POLICE DEPARTMENT, et al.
Krauser, C.J., Friedman, Sharer, J. Frederick (Senior Judge,
Specially Assigned), JJ.
people were killed and several others were injured when the
Baltimore Police Department ("BPD") responded to an
"active shooter" situation outside a nightclub in Baltimore
City. We are first asked to determine whether the Police
Department, the Club, and an adjoining parking lot's
owner and operator may be liable for actions prior to the
shooting. For a variety of reasons described below, we affirm
the trial court's rulings in favor of those appellees. We
are then asked to determine whether the trial court erred in
granting judgment in favor of the four police officers who
fired their guns at the shooter. We affirm the trial
court's finding that no reasonable juror could find that
the officers were grossly negligent.
January 9, 2011, the BPD was called to the Select Lounge
nightclub, located on Baltimore City's North Paca Street,
after several fights had broken out inside the nightclub. On
arrival, Major Marc Partee decided to close the club early
and send its patrons home. Police set up a perimeter around
the club and an adjacent parking lot frequently used by
guests of, although not owned by, the Select Lounge.
the closing, Jazzmin Graves, a patron of the Select Lounge,
was walking across the parking lot when she was hit by a car
pulling out of the lot. Although Ms. Graves was not harmed,
an argument erupted between occupants of the car and Ms.
Graves and her friends. Because the car was blocking traffic,
a man in dark clothing-specifically in black jeans, hat,
boots, and a black "hoodie" sweatshirt-approached
the group. The man told the two groups to stop arguing and to
leave the parking lot. The car drove off the lot.
patron, later identified as Sean Gamble, however, took
exception to the dark-clothed man's actions. Gamble
"got up in" the dark-clothed man's face and
expressed his view that the man shouldn't be
"putting [his] hands on a female." The dark-clothed
man told Gamble to "mind your own fucking
business." While they argued, another man, later
identified as Darrell "Rico" Baker, sucker-punched
the dark-clothed man. More men joined the fray, knocking the
dark-clothed man to the ground and began "stomping[, ]
kicking[, ] and punching" him.
dark-clothed man then pulled and fired a gun.
Harry Pawley testified that the dark-clothed man fired a few
shots, paused briefly, and then resumed shooting:
Q: When did you withdraw your service weapon?
A: I was putting my mace away, I heard gunshots. I looked up,
more gunshots. I saw an individual on the ground shooting and
that's at which time I withdrew my weapon and fired.
Q: When you witnessed [the dark-clothed man] shooting, he was
laying on his back shooting up into the air, wasn't he?
A: No. He was laying on his back shooting, like, his arm
moving from side to side, discharging.
Officer Harry Dodge testified that, after hearing initial
shots, he looked up and saw the dark-clothed man fire shots
toward Franklin Street, a cross street of North Paca:
Q: Was the individual firing his weapon … into the air
A: He was firing towards Franklin Street indiscriminately
with his arm parallel to the ground.
Q: It wasn't into the air?
A: Not the second time he started shooting, no. The first
time he started shooting, I don't recall which direction
he was firing. The second time he began firing again, he was
indiscriminately [shooting] towards Franklin street where a
group of people were.
Latora Craig testified that she heard several initial shots,
saw the men who had attacked the dark-clothed man begin to
run, and saw that the dark-clothed man began to fire again
Q: … And the shots that were fired by that person that
you saw they were all going towards Franklin Street. Correct?
A: They were going in different directions, he had no aim.
Some were straight up, some were down. They were
Craig further testified that the initial shots "went
past [her] legs and [her] feet."
Officer Toyia Williams testified that she heard rapid gunfire
nearby, observed about 20 to 30 people between her and the
shooter, identified a muzzle flash from the shooter's
gun, and then fired her weapon at the shooter.
the dark-clothed man and Sean Gamble were fatally wounded.
Jazzmin Graves and two other patrons, Katrina Harris and
Jamie Jordan, suffered minor gunshot wounds. The dark-clothed
man was later identified as BPD Officer William Torbit.