Baltimore police officers involved in the arrest of Freddie Gray will face criminal charges, including manslaughter and murder, in the death of the 25-year-old black man, the city’s chief prosecutor said on Friday.
Marilyn Mosby, the state’s attorney for Baltimore City, said Gray, who died a week after his April 12 arrest, asked for medical attention twice during a ride between the site of his arrest and a police booking center.
DEVELOPING: Prosecutors charged six Baltimore police officers Friday with crimes ranging from murder to assault in the death of Freddie Gray, the 25-year-old black man whose death last month of injuries apparently suffered in police custody touched off peaceful protests that degenerated into a night of rioting, looting and chaos Monday.
State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby, speaking at a Friday news conference, blasted the six police involved in Gray’s arrest on April 12, during which he suffered a broken neck that proved fatal a week later. Mosby said the police had no basis for arresting Gray, who police said avoided eye contact and was carrying a switchblade. One police officer was charged with second-degree murder, while others were charged with crimes including manslaughter and assault.
“No one is above the law,” declared Mosby, who said she comes from three generations of law enforcement and has been on the job for four months.
The fatal broken neck Freddie Gray suffered, apparently while riding in the back of a Baltimore police van last month, may have been caused when his head hit a bolt inside the vehicle, according to local reports citing sources familiar with a police report now in the hands of state prosecutors.
Sources familiar with the report said the medical examiner found the injury that caused Gray’s death a week later, on April 19, was likely caused when he slammed his head into the interior wall of the police transport van and that his head injury reportedly matched a bolt in the back of the van. That explanation could jibe with a fellow passenger’s account in a police affidavit that Gray was thrashing around in an effort to injure himself, although that witness went on the city’s CBS affiliate to say his words were taken out of context and that he now fears for his life after his statement was used to bolster the police version of events.
The Medical Examiner’s Office declined to comment on this open investigation and said it does not release preliminary findings. State officials are reviewing the report and determining whether there is sufficient evidence to charge as many as six police officers who were involved in Gray’s arrest and transport. Gray’s lawyer has said the 25-year-old’s spine was nearly severed, but results of an autopsy, like the police report, remained under wraps. That has fueled frustration and suspicion in the community, where peaceful protests devolved into rioting and looting, culminating in a night of chaos on Monday.
“The transparency is just not there,” the Rev. Cortly “C.D.” Witherspoon said after Police Commissioner Anthony Batts refused to answer any questions Thursday.
An explosive Washington Post report on Wednesday night that said the witness riding in the back of the van heard Gray banging against the interior of the van also came into question, as that witness, Danta Allen, who had been arrested for allegedly stealing a cigarette, told WJZ he doesn’t believe Gray was trying to hurt himself.
“When I was in the back of that van it did not stop or nothing,” Allen said. “All it did was go straight to the station, but I heard a little banging, like he was banging his head,” Allen said. ” I didn’t even know he was in the van until we got to the station.”
Among the few details officially released from the report in a brief press conference Batts conducted Thursday was the revelation that the police van made a previously undisclosed stop, one of three stops made while transporting Gray to a hospital. The mystery stop was captured by a privately-owned security camera, and could be crucial to the police investigation into Gray’s death.
Although Gray was reportedly shackled to the bed of the van by leg irons, police sources told ABC affiliate WJLA that he was standing, without a seat belt on. Just over a week prior to Gray’s arrest – for running from police who tried to stop him, the Baltimore Police Department issued a new policy making it obligatory to buckle in all inmates being transported in police vans.
Batts said his department’s report was delivered a day ahead of time to the State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby, and the commissioner said any questions about it should go to her.
Mosby decline to speak publicly Thursday as she issued a statement asking for “for the public to remain patient and peaceful and to trust the process of the justice system.”
Last week, Batts said the additional passenger who was picked up along the way had told investigators the driver did not speed, make sudden stops or “drive erratically” during the trip, and that Gray was “was still moving around, that he was kicking and making noises” up until the van arrived at the police station.
Other than the chronology of events, police have not discussed any evidence, details or statements from the six suspended officers.
“I understand there are questions people want to have answered, but unfortunately, we can’t release any more about it,” Capt. J. Eric Kowalczyk said.
The forensic pathologists who studied Gray’s body for clues also aren’t making official statements.
Bruce Goldfarb, a spokesman for the Maryland State Medical Examiner’s Office, told The Associated Press on Thursday that the office has completed Gray’s autopsy, but the forensic investigation is still in process and no conclusions have been sent to police or prosecutors. When the report is complete, Goldfarb said, a copy will be sent to the Baltimore State’s Attorney’s Office.
“The autopsy has been done, it only takes about two and a half hours,” Goldfarb said. “The autopsy is only one part of the forensic investigation. The whole point is to determine cause and manner of death, and there are lab tests and lots of other things that have to be done.”
Legal experts and the Gray family lawyers say secrecy is appropriate at this point in the probe, when it’s still possible that some witnesses haven’t been questioned, or even found.
“By releasing too many details, you run the risk that witnesses’ testimony will change to mirror the details you have released,” said David Weinstein, a former federal prosecutor now in private practice in Miami. He said investigators must verify or corroborate much of the information they receive, and meanwhile the public could be misled that the probe is leading to a particular outcome.
Investigators are facing the challenge of determining whether an officer acted “reasonably” in the death of a civilian. Investigators cannot simply force officers to give statements because that would mean their testimony is coerced and would not hold up in court, Weinstein said.
If they are compelled to give a statement as a condition of their employment, you cannot then use those statements against them in a criminal proceeding,” he said. “This is where the decision to grant immunity comes into play.”
The Gray family’s lawyers sought to dispel the idea that the police report would be made public at this point.
“This family wants justice, and they want justice that comes at the right time and not too soon,” attorney Hassan Murphy said Wednesday.
Meanwhile, protesters over Gray’s death continue to spread across the nation. Aside from gatherings in Baltimore, demonstrations spread into Philadelphia and New York Thursday.
Philly.com reports that Philadelphia police made three or four arrests after hundreds of protesters marched through the city to show support for Gray.
More demonstrations are planned through the weekend.