Lynh Bui et al., Washington Post, May 1, 2015
Six Baltimore police officers face charges ranging from assault to second-degree murder in the death of Freddie Gray, who died from injuries suffered in police custody, State’s Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby said Friday.
In a mid-morning announcement from the steps of the War Memorial Building, Mosby delivered a stunning narrative alleging lethal indifference and cruelty on the part of officers who arrested Gray without probable cause and transported him to the city jail on April 12. Mosby said Gray suffered a severe neck injury after being handcuffed, shackled by his feet and allowed to careen unrestrained inside the Baltimore police wagon.
After four intervening stops, including one to complete paperwork and another to pick up an additional prisoner, Gray was in cardiac arrest when the van arrived at the Western District police station. He died on April 19.
The city’s medical examiner ruled Gray’s death a homicide.
The unexpectedly swift announcement transfixed a city roiled by a week of violence, unrest and demonstrations. Mosby, the daughter and granddaughter of police officers, and on the job for just four months, said she had met with Gray’s family and promised to seek accountability.
“I assured his family that no one is above the law, and I would pursue justice on their behalf,” Mosby said.
The defendants in the Gray case include the van driver who transported him, as well as the officers who apprehended him. They are officers Caesar R. Goodson Jr., William G. Porter, Edward M. Nero, Garrett E. Miller, Sgt. Alicia D. White and Lt. Brian W. Rice.
The rapid filing of charges–only a day after police handed the results of their investigation to prosecutors–brought strong pushback from the Baltimore police union. At a late afternoon press conference Gene Ryan, president of Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 3, decried Mosby’s announcement as an egregious “rush to judgement” The union’s attorney, Michael Davey, predicted that the officers would be exonerated.
“We believe these officers will be vindicated as they have done nothing wrong,” Davey said.
Goodson, the driver of the van, is charged with the most serious crime, second-degree depraved heart murder. The charge of second-degree depraved heart murder essentially means that a suspect held a reckless disregard for another person’s life, according to legal experts.
As news of the charges spread, the intersection of Pennsylvania Avenue and West North Avenue was pretty much like a party, with dozens of riot police manning the corners. Cars drove though the intersection honking their horns rapidly: one smiling man even got on his car and pressed down on the horn for emphasis. Amani Lewis, 20, a student at the Maryland Institute College of Art, stood a few feet into the crosswalk, dancing and raising her fist in celebration.
The speed with which Baltimore officials moved to file charges appeared a clear sign of determination to get out ahead of events and defuse tensions. It came before a weekend of scheduled demonstrations and protests.
President Obama declined to comment directly on the facts of the case and said the officers charged are entitled to due process of law.
“So I want to make sure that our legal system runs the way it should,” Obama said. “What I think the people of Baltimore want more than anything else is the truth. That’s what people around the country expect.”
In Sandtown-Winchester, where Gray lived, several residents said they were satisfied, but they were quick to add that they won’t consider justice done unless the charges lead to convictions.
“I’m happy,” said Marlow Crosby, 31, who went to the same schools as Gray and knew him for four years. “But this isn’t over. . . . They need to be locked up for good. They killed that man.”
The charges against some of the officers include involuntary manslaughter, assault, failure to render aid.
Mosby said the officers who first encountered Gray had no reason to stop him, and the arrest of the 25-year-old was unwarranted. The pocket knife found on him was closed and legal, she said.
Officers “failed to establish probable cause for his arrest as no crime had been committed” Mosby said.
The prosecutor said officers ignored Gray’s pleas for medical help at the time of his arrest and during his ride in a transport van, even when he said he could not breathe. She said Gray requested an inhaler during the ride and that he began to flail and was held “against his will.”
Officers also did not secure him in a seat belt in the van, violating department policy, she said.
“Mr Gray suffered a severe and critical neck injury as a result of being handcuffed, shackled by his feet and unrestrained inside the Baltimore Police Department wagon,” Mosby said.
[Editor’s Note: The Gray family lawyer, William A. Murphy, donated $5,000 to Mrs. Mosby’s campaign, and served on her transition committee.]