Six Baltimore officers charged in Freddie Gray death

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Residents cheer the charges in Freddie Gray's death. He was fatally injured while traveling to the city jail.

BALTIMORE - Six Baltimore police officers face charges ranging from assault to second-degree murder in the death of Freddie Gray, who died from injuries suffered in police custody, State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby said Friday.

In a midmorning announcement from the steps of the War Memorial Building, Mosby delivered a stunning narrative alleging lethal indifference and cruelty on the part of officers who arrested Gray without probable cause and transported him to the city jail on April 12. Mosby said Gray suffered a severe neck injury after being handcuffed, shackled by his feet, and allowed to careen unrestrained inside the Baltimore police wagon.

After four intervening stops, including one to complete paperwork and another to pick up an additional prisoner, Gray was in cardiac arrest when the van arrived at the Western District police station. He died on April 19.

The city's medical examiner ruled Gray's death a homicide.

The unexpectedly swift announcement transfixed a city roiled by a week of violence, unrest, and demonstrations. Mosby, the daughter and granddaughter of police officers, and on the job for just four months, said she had met with Gray's family and promised to seek accountability.

"I assured his family that no one is above the law, and I would pursue justice on their behalf," Mosby said.

The defendants in the Gray case include the van driver who transported him, as well as the officers who apprehended him. They are officers Caesar Goodson, William Porter, Edward Nero, Garrett Miller, Sgt. Alicia White and Lt. Brian Rice.

Court records indicate that all six officers have posted bond, and five have been released. The sixth officer, White, had not yet been released as of Friday night.

The rapid filing of charges - only a day after police handed the results of their investigation to prosecutors - brought strong pushback from the Baltimore police union. At a late afternoon news conference Gene Ryan, president of Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 3, decried Mosby's announcement as an egregious "rush to judgment." The union's attorney, Michael Davey, predicted that the officers would be exonerated.

"We believe these officers will be vindicated as they have done nothing wrong," Davey said.

Gray's family said it was "satisfied" by the filing of the charges. Richard Shipley, Gray's stepfather, also issued a plea for demonstrators to assemble peacefully this weekend.

"If you are not going to come in peace, please don't come at all," Shipley said. "Without justice there is no peace. But let us have peace in the pursuit of justice."

Goodson, the driver of the van, is charged with the most serious crime, second-degree depraved heart murder. The charge of second-degree depraved heart murder essentially means that a suspect held a reckless disregard for another person's life, according to legal experts.

As news of the charges spread, the intersection of Pennsylvania and North Avenues was pretty much like a party, with dozens of riot police manning the corners. Cars drove though the intersection honking their horns rapidly: one smiling man even got on his car and pressed down on the horn for emphasis. Amani Lewis, 20, a student at the Maryland Institute College of Art, stood a few feet into the crosswalk, dancing and raising her fist in celebration.

"Justice for Freddie Gray!" she yelled toward the passing cars. Then, turning toward a companion, she laughed and added, "Coming soon."

As for what prosecutors revealed about how Gray was treated, Lewis said that was not surprising.

"It's the brutality that we all were aware of that was present here and everywhere else," she said. Lewis said she remained upset about what happened to Gray, but heartened that something was being done about it.

"We are heartbroken, but we're starting to see the pieces come together," she said.

Those pieces came together with a velocity that took the city by surprise Friday. The charges came less than three weeks after Gray's arrest and subsequent death.

The speed with which Baltimore officials moved to file charges appeared a clear sign of determination to get out ahead of events and defuse tensions. It came before a weekend of scheduled demonstrations and protests.

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said she was "sickened and heartbroken" by Mosby's announcement of the charges. She said the city's police force serves the city with bravery and distinction, but that illegal force would not be tolerated.

"Those of you who wish to engage in brutality, in misconduct, in racism - let me be clear: There is no place in the police department for you," Rawlings-Blake said.

Gov. Larry Hogan who has been highly visible throughout the city, was much more restrained, issuing a statement five hours after Mosby's announcement. He focused largely on a call for continued calm in the city.

"I strongly urge everyone to continue to conduct themselves in a peaceful manner in the days ahead," Hogan's statement said. "The last week has been very difficult for the people of Baltimore and emotions are still running high. . . . I believe in the criminal justice system, and we will all see this process play out over the coming months."

In Sandtown-Winchester, where Gray lived, several residents said they were satisfied, but they were quick to add that they won't consider justice done unless the charges lead to convictions.

"I'm happy," said Marlow Crosby, 31, who went to the same schools as Gray and knew him for four years. "But this isn't over. . . . They need to be locked up for good. They killed that man."

As National Guard troops and Baltimore police lined up in full riot gear at Pennsylvania and North Avenues on Friday afternoon, Chad Dawson, 31, said he has mixed emotions. He called the charges "a slap on the wrist."


THE OFFICERS AND THEIR CHARGES

Second-degree depraved heart murder

Involuntary manslaughter

Second-degree assault

Manslaughter by vehicle

Misconduct in office

False imprisonment

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'Depraved-Heart' Murder

Maryland has several classifications of homicide, depending on the suspect's mindset. The classifications range from the most serious - first-degree, premeditated murder - to forms of manslaughter in which no malice is present.

Second-degree murder is just below first-degree murder and generally holds that there was no premeditation. Second-degree murder, in Maryland, carries a sentence of up to 30 years in prison, said Steven Kupferberg, a Maryland criminal defense lawyer.

There are different forms of second-degree murder. Baltimore Police Officer Caesar R. Goodson Jr. was charged Friday with second-degree depraved-heart murder in the death of Freddie Gray, who died in police custody. "Depraved-heart" second-degree murder holds that the suspect held a reckless disregard for another person's life.

Put another way, "it is a deliberate act that is so dangerous that it shows total indifference to someone else's life," said David Moyse, also a Maryland defense lawyer.

If a depraved-heart homicide case goes to trial, jurors are given specific instructions on what it takes to form a conviction. An example of those instructions follow:

Second-Degree Depraved Heart Murder.

Second-degree murder is the killing of another person while acting with an extreme disregard for human life. In order to convict the defendant of second-degree murder, the State must prove:

(1) that the defendant caused the death of (name);

(2) that the defendant's conduct created a very high risk to the life of (name); and

(3) that the defendant, conscious of such risk, acted with extreme disregard of the life-endangering consequences.

- Washington Post