Funeral Set Today For City Officer Slain Outside Club

… Torbit, dressed in civilian clothes, fatally shot by police while trying to quell disturbance …

By Justin Fenton, The Baltimore Sun

12:23 PM EST, January 19, 2011

The funeral of Baltimore Officer William H. Torbit Jr. began this morning with a small procession down Pennsylvania Avenue, where the drug cop patrolled for eight years and forged strong ties with the community.

Some residents watched as the sirens blared just after 9 a.m.

Priscilla Davis of T & Tees Grocery on Pennsylvania Avenue said the officer, a friend of her son’s, was like a child to her. Baltimore needs more officers like Torbit, she said. “They mind him. They respect him.”

After the procession moved to north Baltimore, a caisson pulled by two horses carried the casket a short distance along Charles Street for services at The Cathedral of Mary Our Queen. Police officers saluted as the flag-draped casket was carried into the cathedral.

Internment was planned at Arbutus Memorial Park.

Torbit was shot and killed by fellow officers Jan. 9 when he responded in civilian clothes to help quell a disturbance outside of a club near downtown and became overwhelmed by the crowd. A 22-year-old man, who police believe was shot by Torbit, was also killed, and city officials have pledged an outside review of the investigation.

Torbit was born and raised in the city, and when not working his beat, he often returned to the Upton neighborhood to chat with residents and patronize businesses. In a profile that appeared in The Sun last week, even those who were regularly arrested by him said he was fair and tried to talk to them about their problems. Last Tuesday, residents, relatives and fellow officers came together to hold a candlelight vigil.

Tanika Robinson, a 22-year-old resident of the Upton neighborhood, said she looked up to Torbit as a role model. She brought candles and a bunch of balloons to the vigil to remember the officer she described as “well-hearted.”

“Some people live for their job, and some people don’t,” Robinson said. “With some people, it’s more than a paycheck.”

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, who is scheduled to attend Torbit’s funeral, said last week that he was “a hardworking narcotics officer who served the Central District with great honor.” Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III said Torbit “loved being a cop, and worked really hard at it.”

Torbit was the first officer killed by another officer since 2008, when Officer Norman Stamp was fatally shot after police responded to a fight at a Southeast Baltimore bar. But the last on-duty officer killed in a case of mistaken identity similar to Torbit was in 1926, when an officer investigating thefts at a Mount Washington church was shot by two undercover officers.

Such cases are rare but have forced other agencies to take a closer look at their procedures and training, as well as raising issues of “unconscious” racial bias, according to a New York commission that studied the issue.

Baltimore Sun reporter Liz Kay contributed to this article.

Copyright © 2011, The Baltimore Sun

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