BALTIMORE’S top prosecutor announced criminal charges yesterday against all six officers suspended after a black man suffered a fatal spinal injury in police custody, saying “no one is above the law”.
Maryland State’s Attorney, Marilyn Mosby declared that Freddie Gray’s death was a homicide, his arrest was illegal, and his treatment in custody amounted to murder and manslaughter. Ms Mosby announced the charges only hours after receiving the results of the internal police investigation and the autopsy report. As she spoke, the city was bracing itself for huge crowds in two more waves of protests yesterday and today.
Onlookers began to cheer and then express amazement over Ms Mosby’s announcement, which few expected so quickly.
Ms Mosby said: “The findings of our comprehensive, thorough and independent investigation, coupled with the medical examiner’s determination that Mr Gray’s death was a homicide …we have probable cause to file criminal charges.”
Cheers and shouts of “Justice!” erupted on the courthouse steps and in the streets of Baltimore, which has faced nearly two weeks of growing anger over Freddie Gray’s death. “Mr Gray suffered a severe and critical neck injury as a result of being handcuffed, shackled by his feet and unrestrained inside of the BPD wagon,” Ms Mosby said.
The stiffest charge – second-degree “depraved heart” murder – was filed against the driver of the police van. The other five were charged with crimes including manslaughter, assault, false imprisonment and misconduct in office. Fraternal Order of Police local president Gene Ryan told Ms Mosby in a letter before the charges were announced yesterday that none of the six suspended officers were responsible for Mr Gray’s death.
But Ms Mosby said he was illegally arrested, assaulted, falsely accused of carrying an illegal weapon, and then hoisted, handcuffed, into the metal compartment of a police van without the seatbelt that all officers are told they must put on for the safety of both detainees and officers.
The officers failed to get medical help even though Mr Gray requested it repeatedly, she said. At some point along the way, he suffered an unexplained spinal injury and he died a week later.
Ms Mosby said the “illegal switchblade” – which Officer Garrett E Miller swore in a court record under penalty of perjury that he found clipped inside Mr Gray’s trouser pocket after he was detained – was in fact a legal knife, and provided no justification for his arrest.
She said Mr Gray was assaulted by Miller, Officer William G Porter, Officer Edward M Nero, Lt. Brian W Rice and Sgt Alicia D White. Each faces up to ten years in prison if convicted of second-degree assault.
The van driver, Officer Caeser R Goodson, Jr, faces up to 30 years on the murder charge, and ten years each for involuntary manslaughter, assault and “manslaughter by vehicle”.
All of the officers also face a charge of misconduct in office.