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Anger turns to joy as criminal charges announced in Freddie Gray death

Six officers to face charges, including murder and manslaughter, says Baltimore prosecutor; death ruled a homicide

BALTIMORE — Riots turned to jubilant celebration in parts of Baltimore on Friday after state attorney Marilyn Mosby announced that six police officers involved in the arrest of Freddie Gray will face criminal charges, including manslaughter and murder.

Announcing her surprisingly swift decision, she said at a news conference Friday that his death, a week after sustaining spinal cord injuries while in police custody on April 12, was ruled a homicide by a medical examiner.

Mosby, a 35 year-old rookie prosecutor, said Gray asked for medical attention twice during a ride between the site of his arrest and a police booking center. She also said police had no reason to detain him in the first place.

“To the youth of this city, I will seek justice on your behalf,” she said. “I heard your call for ‘No justice, no peace.’”

Shouts of “Justice!” erupted on the courthouse steps and in the streets of Baltimore, which has faced nearly two weeks of growing anger over Gray’s death.

The Gray family’s attorney, Billy Murphy, said the family was “satisfied” with the Mosby’s decision, calling it “a step on the road to justice.” The fear had been that “this [would] be like so many places, swept under the rug,” he said. “There was no sweeping and no rug.”

Several officers have been charged with second-degree murder, involuntary manslaughter and misconduct for failing to secure Gray with a seat belt during his transportation in a police van and denying him medical care for the injuries he sustained during the ride.

The stiffest charge — second-degree depraved-heart murder — was filed against the driver of the police van, Officer Caesar R. Goodson Jr. He faces up to 30 years on the murder charge and 10 years each for involuntary manslaughter, assault and manslaughter by vehicle.

William Porter, Sgt. Alicia White and Lt. Brian Rice were each charged with involuntary manslaughter, assault in the second degree and misconduct and other charges. Officer Edward Nero and Garrett Miller were charged with intentional assault in the second degree, negligent misconduct and false imprisonment. All of the officers also face a charge of misconduct in office.

By Friday afternoon, all six officers were in custody.

“As mayor, I will continue to be relentless in changing the culture of the police department,” said Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake. “There will be justice for Mr. Gray. There will be justice for his family, and there will be justice for the people of Baltimore.”

However, a lawyer for the Baltimore police union, Michael Davey, called the charges “an egregious rush to judgment.” In a letter released over its Twitter account, the union also asked Mosby to appoint a special prosecutor to the investigation because of her personal connection to Murphy, who has been a mentor to her and contributed to her election campaign.

“I have very deep concerns about the many conflicts of interest presented by your office conducting an investigation in the case,” wrote Gene Ryan, president of the Fraternal Order of Police No. 3. “These conflicts include your personal and professional relationship with Gray family attorney William Murphy and the lead prosecutor’s connections with members of the local media.”

Ryan also wrote that the “most important” conflict of interest is that Marilyn Mosby’s husband, Nick Mosby, is a Baltimore city councilman whose “political future will be directly impacted, for better or worse, by the outcome of your investigation.”

Marilyn Mosby’s office rejected claims that her relationship with Murphy presents a conflict with her duties.

Mosby said the police had no reason to stop or chase after Gray in the first place. They falsely accused him of having an illegal switchblade when, in fact, it was a legal pocketknife, she said. The van driver and the other officers failed to strap him down with a seat belt — a violation of department policy — and they ignored Gray’s repeated pleas for medical attention, even rerouting the van to pick up another passenger.

The officers missed five opportunities to help the injured and falsely imprisoned detainee before he arrived at the police station no longer breathing, she said. Along the way, “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,” she said.

Residents who gathered to hear Mosby promptly broke out into applause when she finished, and that sense of satisfaction spread through much of the city. 

“I’m overwhelmed. I’m so happy,” said Kevin Moore, 28, outside the Gilmore Homes public housing complex where Gray lived. “This is just the tip of the iceberg of justice for Freddie Gray. We’re not thugs. We are Americans,” added Moore, who recorded Gray’s arrest.

“I think it was because of the outrage and partly the violence on Monday,” said James Crump, 47, a medical technician from Baltimore, on hearing of the charges against the officers and as a stream of cars honked their horns in celebration of the news on the corner of Pennsylvania and North avenues.

“I applaud the attorney’s efforts. But we can’t be complacent or comfortable with what she said,” said Kevin Simmons, 53, a Marine veteran. “We want to see all of them convicted.”

Gray’s death has renewed the public outcry that mounted last year after police killings of unarmed black men in cities across the country, including New York and Ferguson, Missouri.

After a night of violence in Baltimore on Monday after Gray’s funeral, protests have spread to other major cities, such as New York, Philadelphia, Boston and Minneapolis.

On Thursday, roughly 1,000 people in Philadelphia attempted to march onto a highway and were blocked by police, who reported making three or four arrests, then releasing two of the people, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer.

A crowd of about 300 people gathered in Cincinnati, according to Cincinnati.com. And in Milwaukee, a small group marched to mark the first anniversary of the death of Dontre Hamilton, shot 14 times by police after a struggle in a downtown park.

The night before, hundreds of people rallied and marched in cities across the U.S. as outrage spread over Gray’s death. In New York more than 100 demonstrators were arrested. 

With news services and reporting from Wilson Dizard

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