From Alan Blinder and Richard Perez-PenaThe New York Times
BALTIMORE — Baltimore’s chief prosecutor charged six police officers on Friday with crimes including murder and manslaughter in the arrest and fatal injury of Freddie Gray, a striking and surprisingly swift turn in a case that has drawn national attention to police conduct.
The state’s attorney for Baltimore, Marilyn J. Mosby, filed the charges almost as soon as she received a medical examiner’s report that ruled Mr. Gray’s death a homicide, and a day after the police concluded their initial investigation and handed over their findings. Officials had cautioned that it could take considerable time for her office to complete its own investigation and decide whether to prosecute.
All six of the officers are in custody, according a public safety department spokesman, and are being arraigned.
In a city rocked by unrest this week, and now under curfew and patrolled by National Guard troops, Ms. Mosby’s announcement on the steps of the War Memorial downtown drew cheers from the assembled crowd, while a cordon of officers in riot gear looked on stonily. As word spread, people in parts of the city took to the streets in celebration. The death of Mr. Gray brought to a boil long-simmering tensions between the police and poor neighborhoods in this majority-black city, culminating in rioting Monday, with more peaceful demonstrations continuing through the week.
The Timeline of Freddie Gray’s Arrest and the Charges Filed
A timeline of the events that preceded his death.
President Obama declined to comment on the charges directly, but said that what matters is for the justice system to work properly. “What I think the people of Baltimore want more than anything else is the truth,” he said. “That’s what people around the country expect.”
Ms. Mosby said that Mr. Gray suffered a fatal spinal injury on April 12 while being transported in a police van — and not earlier, while being arrested — and pointed to the failure of the police to put a seatbelt on him as a crucial factor. “Mr. Gray suffered a critical neck injury as a result of being handcuffed, shackled by his feet and unrestrained inside the BPD wagon,” she said, referring to the police van.
Despite repeated stops to check on Mr. Gray, the van driver, Officer Caesar R. Goodson Jr., and other officers never belted him in, she said, at times leaving him facedown on the van floor with his hands behind him. Though there has been speculation that the police intentionally gave Mr. Gray a “rough ride,” intended to slam him against the metal walls of the van, Ms. Mosby did not refer to that possibility. She charged only Officer Goodson with second-degree murder, the most serious crime facing the six officers; he was also accused of manslaughter, assault and misconduct in office.
Mr. Gray’s condition deteriorated, she said, as officers repeatedly ignored his pleas for medical attention and ignored obvious signs that he was in distress. At one point, she said, when officers attempted to check on him, Mr. Gray was completely unresponsive — yet no action was taken. He died of his injuries a week later.
Ms. Mosby faulted the officers’ conduct almost from the minute the police first came into contact with Mr. Gray, not just on the van ride. The officers who arrested him had no probable cause to do so, she said, describing the arrest as illegal. Officers charged him with possession of a switchblade, but Ms. Mosby said, “The knife was not a switchblade and is lawful under Maryland law.”
Lt. Brian W. Rice was charged with manslaughter, assault, misconduct in office and false imprisonment. Officer William G. Porter and Sgt. Alicia D. White were each charged with manslaughter, assault and misconduct in office. Officers Edward M. Nero and Garrett E. Miller were charged with assault, misconduct in office and false imprisonment.
The Baltimore chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police, the officers’ union, defended their conduct and called on Ms. Mosby to remove herself from the case and hand it over to a special prosecutor — an idea she dismissed out of hand.
“As tragic as this situation is, none of the officers involved are responsible for the death of Mr. Gray,” Gene Ryan, president of the union chapter, wrote in an open letter to the state’s attorney.
Mr. Ryan argued that Ms. Mosby had conflicts of interest, including the fact that she has been supported politically by William H. Murphy Jr., the lawyer for Mr. Gray’s family. He also noted that her husband is a city councilman, and said his “political future will be directly impacted, for better or worse, by the outcome of your investigation.”
As Ms. Mosby finished reading her dramatic announcement, the news began to ripple through a crowd of African-American residents and activists who had pooled around her, mingling with reporters. Edward Jenkins, 44, a motivational speaker and musician who goes by the name Voyce, approached and could hardly contain his surprise when he was told of the charges. “Are you serious?” he said.
Like many Baltimore residents, Mr. Jenkins, who grew up in Mr. Gray’s neighborhood, said he thought the announcement might put a damper on further unrest.
“I think this will take some of the nervousness off of it, but they’ll still want a guilty verdict,” he said. “It means that we’re absolutely getting a start on justice.”
But Abdullah Moaney, 53, an information technology worker from East Baltimore, said that “peace has lost its credibility.” Justifyng the violence that broke out Monday, he said that “if it wasn’t for the riot,” charges would not have been filed.
“This is a great day, and I think we need to realize that,” Representative Elijah Cummings said. “I think a message has been sent by our state’s attorney that she treasures every life, that she values every person.”
Mayor Rawlings-Blake said most of the city’s police officers were good, but added, “To those who choose to engage in violence, brutality, racism and brutality, let me be clear: There is no place in the Baltimore Police Department for you.”
“At no point did he seek, nor did he render, any medical help for Mr. Gray,” the prosecutor said.
A few blocks later, he called a dispatcher to say that he needed help checking on his prisoner. Another officer arrived, and the back of the van was opened. “Mr. Gray at that time said that he needed help and indicated that he could not breathe,” and asked twice for a medic, Ms. Mosby said. While the officers helped him onto the bench in the back of the van, she said, they still did not belt him in.
While they were there, she said, a call went out for a van to pick up and transport another person who had been arrested. “Despite Mr. Gray’s obvious and recognized need for assistance,” Ms. Mosby said, Officer Goodson answered that call, an act she called “grossly negligent.”
At the van’s next stop, Officer Goodson met the officers who made the initial arrest, and a sergeant who had arrived on the scene. Opening the van once again, they “observed Mr. Gray unresponsive on the floor of the wagon,” Ms. Mosby said.
The sergeant, she said, spoke to the back of Mr. Gray’s head, but he did not respond. “She made no effort to look, to assess or the determine his condition,” Ms. Mosby said.
When the van finally arrived at the Western District police station, and officers tried to remove him, “Mr. Gray was no longer breathing at all,” she said. A medic was summoned and found Mr. Gray in cardiac arrest. Then he was rushed to a hospital.