A LAWYER for six Baltimore police officers says they “did nothing wrong”, after criminal charges were announced against them in the case of Freddie Gray who died in police custody.
Lawyer Michael Davey said the officers “at all times acted reasonably and in accordance with their training”.
Baltimore state prosecutor Marilyn Mosby earlier said the death of the 25-year-old black man was a homicide and his arrest had been illegal.
Gray’s death sparked violent protests.
But after the charges were announced on Friday afternoon, celebrations broke out across Baltimore. Drivers honked their car horns as people took to the streets with fists raised in triumph.
“These charges are an important step in getting justice for Freddie,” said Gray’s stepfather Richard Shipley.
The spontaneous street celebrations turned into a small protest march in the evening, calling for an amnesty for those detained after Monday’s rioting.
Police said that 53 people were detained on Friday, some for breaking the 10pm curfew which is still in force in the city.
State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby said Gray’s arrest was illegal and unjustified, and that his neck was broken because he was handcuffed, shackled and placed head-first into a police van, where his pleas for medical attention were repeatedly ignored as he bounced around inside the small metal box.
However, Davey accused Mosby of an “egregious rush to judgment”.
The Baltimore chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police said the speed of the prosecution’s decision was politically motivated.
Davey said the process of bringing the charges was too swift. “As all of the facts surrounding this case come out in the appropriate form, the officers’ lack of wrongdoing will be made abundantly clear,” Davey said.
“In my 20-year career as a law enforcement officer and 16 years as an attorney, I have never seen such a rush to file criminal charges which I believe are driven by forces separate and apart from the application of law and the facts of this case as we’ve heard them,” Davey said.
“Let me state in no uncertain terms that Lt Rice and all of the officers involved at all times acted reasonably and in accordance with their training as Baltimore police officers,” he added. “No officer injured Mr Gray, caused harm to Mr Gray, and [they] are truly saddened by his death. These officers did nothing wrong.”
Davey is representing Lt Brian Rice, and was speaking on behalf of all the officers charged on Friday with counts including manslaughter, assault, and misconduct. “I believe that the publicity, in this case, is a driving force to a rush to judgment and causing this prosecution to move forth so quickly,” Davey said.
The lawyer specialises in representing officers across Maryland. He has represented more than 175 officers in police-involved shooting cases throughout the state. A retired state police captain, Davey served in the agency’s Field Operations Bureau, Drug Enforcement Division and Criminal Investigation Division.
In Baltimore, changes in the way racial issues are being handled are under way. This week, for the first time since 1968, the year that Martin Luther King Jr was assassinated, National Guard troops were deployed. On Friday, the city – or at least a section of the city, West North Avenue and Pennsylvania Avenue, an area that had been torched – was starting to heal.
The National Guard troops, the same men who were sent here to stop would-be rioters, played with children in front of a burned-out shop.
Someone had drawn a peace sign in white and pink chalk on its brick wall. Plywood has been bolted over the smashed-up doors. A Harriet Tubman poster, commemorating a woman who once helped free slaves, is hung on the wood.