Rage to relief in Baltimore as 6 officers charged in Freddie Gray's death
By JEAN MARBELLA | The Baltimore Sun | Published: May 1, 2015
BALTIMORE — Widespread outrage over the death of Freddie Gray gave way to impromptu celebrations Friday after Baltimore’s chief prosecutor filed criminal charges against the six police officers who arrested him, drove him to a police station and ignored his pleas for medical help.
State’s Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby charged the driver of the van with second-degree murder and the other officers with offenses that included involuntary manslaughter, vehicular manslaughter, second-degree assault, false imprisonment and misconduct in office. The officers were taken into custody Friday and released on bail.
“These charges are an important step in getting justice for Freddie,” said Richard Shipley, stepfather of the 25-year-old Gray, who died April 19, one week after he was injured in police custody.
Mosby’s conclusion that Gray had been illegally arrested and suffered a spinal injury while unrestrained in a police transport wagon led to joyous outbursts in many parts of a city that remained under heavy police and National Guard watch and a 10 p.m. curfew following Monday’s rioting.
After Gray’s death led to weeks of tension that occasionally spilled into violence, it felt as if many exhaled in relief Friday. Gray had become the focus of massive demonstrations, here and increasingly in other cities, as the latest in a string of African-American men who died during interactions with police.
The case stood in stark contrast to high-profile cases across the nation in which police officers were cleared of wrongdoing in the deaths of black men. Grand juries declined to indict the officer who put a chokehold on Eric Garner in Staten Island, N.Y., or the officer who fatally shot Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo.
In a surprise move, Mosby announced the charges the day after receiving the results of the Police Department’s investigation of the incident.
The police union president, Gene Ryan, said none of the officers charged are responsible for Gray’s death. Michael E. Davey, an attorney who works with the union and is representing one of the officers, decried what he called an “egregious rush to judgment.”
Gray’s family continued to implore protesters, who are expected to march Saturday in a previously scheduled rally, to remain peaceful.
“Whoever comes to our city — a city that we love, a city that we live in — come in peace. If you are not coming in peace, please don’t come at all,” said Shipley, accompanied at a news conference by Gray’s mother, Gloria Darden; his father, Freddie Gray Sr.; and twin sister, Fredericka.
“Because this city needs to get back to work. The last thing that Freddie would want is to see the hardworking people of Baltimore lose their jobs and businesses because of this.”
City officials, fearful that dashed expectations could lead to more violence, had been warning residents not to expect the conclusion of a police investigation Thursday to immediately lead to an announcement on whether to charge the officers.
But on the steps of the War Memorial Building on Friday, Mosby did just that. She had hinted that she was not idly waiting for the police report, saying Thursday that what the police found was not new to her and that she had been working on her own investigation.
Her conclusion: “The manner of death deemed a homicide by the State Medical Examiner is believed to be the result of a fatal injury that occurred while Mr. Gray was unrestrained by a seatbelt in the custody of the Baltimore Police Department wagon.”
News spread quickly from the steps of the War Memorial Building, across the plaza that separates it from City Hall. In neighborhoods previously filled with chanting demonstrators, cheers rang out and car horns honked as residents watched a live broadcast of the 10:30 a.m. announcement.
On East Lorraine Avenue in Harwood, where Freddie Gray lived with his mother and sisters, someone played a radio that was airing a continuous loop of Mosby reading the charges.
At Gilmor Homes, where Gray spent his last moments of freedom, young men remembered “a friend we ain’t never going to be able to replace,” as Rontee Jenkins, 26, a lifelong friend, put it.
Yet the tears shed by Jenkins, who helped carry Gray’s casket at his funeral on Monday, were of joy.
“I want my friend not to go in vain,” he said.
Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake ordered the officers suspended without pay.
“To those of you who want to engage in brutality, misconduct, racism and corruption, let me be clear: There is no place for you in the Baltimore City Police Department,” she said in a brief appearance at City Hall.
The news reached the White House as well.
“It is absolutely vital that the truth comes out on what happened to Freddie Gray,” President Barack Obama said. “It is my practice not to comment on the legal processes involved. That would not be appropriate.
“But I can tell you that justice needs to be served. All the evidence needs to be presented,” he said. “What I think the people of Baltimore want more than anything else is the truth. … That’s what people around the country expect.”
Under gray skies, Mosby read a probable-cause statement, the basis for arresting the officers, in an even voice as traffic occasionally rumbled past on Fayette Street. Although the outlines of Gray’s arrest and transport were widely known, her recitation of a fuller narrative proved riveting.
Two repeated themes: that the handcuffed and leg-shackled Gray was never secured by a seat belt in the police wagon against police policy, and that officers ignored repeated appeals for medical help from Gray.
Officer Caesar R. Goodson Jr., the driver of the van, was charged with second-degree murder, three counts of manslaughter and assault. Lt. Brian W. Rice was charged with manslaughter, assault and false imprisonment. Sgt. Alicia D. White and Officer William G. Porter were charged with manslaughter and assault. Officers Garrett E. Miller and Edward M. Nero were charged with assault and false imprisonment. All were charged with misconduct in office.
The arrest on the morning of April 12 began when Rice made eye contact with Gray near the corner of North Avenue and Mount Street. Gray ran, and Rice, along with Miller and Nero chased him.
Gray surrendered in the 1700 block of Presbury Street, Mosby said, where “he was placed in a prone position, with his hands handcuffed behind his back.” It was there that Gray first asked for and was denied medical care, she said.
“It was at this time that Mr. Gray indicated that he could not breathe and requested an inhaler to no avail,” she said.
At that point, officers discovered a knife with its blade folded into the handle, she said. It wasn’t a switchblade but a legal implement. Having failed to establish probable cause, the officers’ arrest of Gray was illegal, Mosby said.
And then began the van ride, which stopped four times for various reasons, as the unrestrained Gray injured his neck and his condition deteriorated.
Goodson, who was driving the van, made his first stop on Baker Street, where Gray was removed by the three officers who had arrested him, Mosby said. They put flex cuffs on his wrists, leg shackles on his ankles and “completed required paperwork,” Mosby said. Then they put Gray back into the wagon, on his stomach on the floor.
It was during the next segment of the drive that Gray was injured, Mosby said, although she did not say whether the driver took him on a so-called “rough ride,” in which officers intentionally drive erratically, causing shackled passengers to bounce helplessly against the walls of the van.
The driver, Goodson, made a second stop near Mosher Street and Fremont Avenue, where he parked and walked to the back of the wagon to check on Gray, Mosby said. But “at no point did he seek nor did he render any medical assistance for Mr. Gray,” she said, and he resumed his course toward Central Booking.
Several blocks later, Goodson called dispatch, saying that “he needed to check” on Gray and requested additional units to meet him at Dolphin Street and Druid Hill Avenue, Mosby said. There, he and the responding officer, Porter, checked on Gray, she said.
“Mr. Gray at that time requested help and indicated that he could not breathe,” Mosby said. “Officer Porter asked Mr. Gray if he needed a medic, at which time Mr. Gray indicated at least twice that he was in need of a medic.”
Porter helped Gray onto a bench, but still neither officer put a seat belt on him nor called for medical help, she said. Rather, Mosby said, the officers heard a request for units to help with an arrest on West North Avenue, and Porter responded, followed by Goodson driving the van with Gray still in it.
On North Avenue, the fourth stop, Goodson was met by the other officers as well as White, who was investigating two citizen complaints about Gray’s arrest, Mosby said.
The officers “found Gray unresponsive on the floor of the wagon,” she said.
“Sgt. White … spoke to the back of Mr. Gray’s head,” Mosby said. “When he did not respond, she did nothing further despite the fact that she was advised that he needed a medic.
“She made no effort to look or assess or determine his condition,” Mosby said. “Despite Mr. Gray’s seriously deteriorating medical condition, no medical assistance was rendered or summoned for Mr. Gray at that time by any officer.”
The officers put the new suspect in the opposite side of the wagon, and Goodson drove to the Western District police station, she said. They took that suspect in before dealing with Gray, who by then was not breathing.
“A medic was finally called to the scene, where upon arrival the medic determined that Mr. Gray was in cardiac arrest and was critically and severely injured,” Mosby said.
He was rushed to University of Maryland Shock Trauma where he underwent surgery, but died a week later.
On Friday, the six officers were processed at the Central Booking and Intake Center, where Gray was initially headed after his arrest.
At a news conference at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum, which is devoted to African-American history, Gray’s family made a brief appearance and their lawyer asked that they be allowed to continue grieving privately.
“Freddie was taken too early and too horrifically,” said lawyer William H. “Billy” Murphy Jr., who represents the Gray family.
Mosby, who says her family boasts five generations of law enforcement officers, insisted that “the charges are not an indictment of the entire police force.”
The union also asked that Mosby appoint an independent prosecutor because of her ties to Murphy — a campaign contributor and member of her transition team — and her marriage to Nick Mosby, the city councilman who represents the area where Gray was arrested.
The Baltimore Sun's Pamela Wood, Colin Campbell, Carrie Wells, Michael Dresser, Jessica Anderson, Kevin Rector, Julie Scharper and Scott Dance contributed to this article.
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