Gray death – six officers charged

Published: Saturday 2nd May 2015 by The News Editor

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Rage turned to relief in Baltimore when the city’s senior prosecutor charged six police officers with crimes ranging from assault to murder in the death of Freddie Gray.

State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby said Mr Gray’s arrest was illegal and unjustified.

She said 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.

The swiftness of her announcement, less than a day after receiving the police department’s criminal investigation and official post-mortem results, took the city by surprise.

So too did her detailed description, based in part on her office’s independent investigation, of the evidence supporting probable cause to charge all six officers.

Mr Gray’s death came amid a national debate about the deaths of black men at the hands of police.

The police had no reason to stop or chase after Mr Gray, Ms Mosby said. They falsely accused him of having an illegal switchblade when in fact it was a legal pocketknife.

The van driver and the other officers failed to strap him down with a seatbelt, a direct violation of department policy, and they ignored Mr Gray’s repeated pleas for medical attention, even rerouting the van to pick up another passenger.

Ms Mosby did not say whether there was any indication the driver deliberately drove erratically, causing Mr Gray’s body to strike the van’s interior.

In 2005, a man died of a fractured spine after he was transported in a Baltimore police van in handcuffs and without a seat belt. At a civil trial, a lawyer for his family successfully argued police had given him a “rough ride”.

The officers missed five opportunities to help an injured and falsely imprisoned detainee before he arrived at the police station no longer breathing, Ms Mosby said.

She concluded that 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”.

Her announcement triggered celebrations across the same West Baltimore streets that were smouldering just four days earlier, when Mr Gray’s funeral led to riots and looting.

“We are satisfied with today’s charges,” Mr Gray’s stepfather, Richard Shipley, said. “These charges are an important step in getting justice for Freddie.”

But a lawyer hired by the police union insisted the officers did nothing wrong. Michael Davey said Ms Mosby had committed “an egregious rush to judgment”.

He said: “We have grave concerns about the fairness and integrity of the prosecution of our officers.”

Published: Saturday 2nd May 2015 by The News Editor

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