Six Baltimore police officers will be charged in the death of Freddie Gray after a Maryland state attorney ruled that the fatal injuries Gray sustained while in police custody were considered a homicide. Warrants for the six officers charged in the case have been issued, the city’s chief prosecutor Marilyn Mosby said at a press conference in Downtown Baltimore Friday, with the charges ranging from murder and manslaughter to assault, misconduct and false imprisonment, Reuters reports.
NPR reports that the six officers involved were Officer Caesar R. Goodson, Jr., Officer William G. Porter, Lt. Brian W. Rice, Officer Edward M. Nero, Officer Garrett E. Miller and Sgt. Alicia D. White. Five officers was charged with a minimum of involuntary manslaughter, with Miller, the sixth officer, charged with two counts of second degree assault, false imprisonment and two counts of misconduct in office.
Goodson Jr., the driver of the police van in which Grey sustained his mortal injuries, received the brunt of the charges: Second degree depraved heart murder, involuntary manslaughter, second-degree assault, manslaughter by vehicle (gross negligence), manslaughter by vehicle (criminal negligence) and misconduct in office. If found guilty, the depraved heart murder charge – filed when a death results from “callous disregard for human life,” often referred to as second-degree murder – carries a sentence of 30 years, while the manslaughter charge comes with a 10-year sentence.
Mosby said her department’s “thorough and independent” investigation determined that Gray should not have even been arrested in the first place since the knife he was in possession with turned out to be legal. Mosby’s investigation also determined that arresting officers placed Gray – wearing ankle and wrist restraints – stomach-down on the floor of the police van and proceeded to drive around West Baltimore. On five separate occasions, Gray was checked on by police officers, but none properly secured him in the back of the van.
According to Mosby, Maryland’s chief medical examiner determined that Gray suffered spinal injuries while riding in the back of a police van without restraints. Gray was arrested April 12th for being in possession of a switchblade. Mosby said that Gray asked for medical assistance twice in the back of the van, but was denied by arresting officers. By the time he was removed from the vehicle, Gray had already stopped breathing and suffered cardiac arrest.
Gray slipped into a coma and was taken to a nearby hospital, where doctors determined that 80 percent of his spine was severed and that he had a fractured vertebrae among other injuries. Gray died on April 19th; his death and funeral sparked a wave of protests and eventually riots in Baltimore, resulting in the declaration of a state of emergency and the institution of a weeklong 10 p.m. curfew.
“Demonstrators across America, I heard your call for no justice, no peace. Your peace is sincerely needed as I work to deliver justice on behalf of this young man,” Mosby said. “To those that are angry, hurt or have their own experiences of injustice at the hands of police officers, I urge you to channel the energy peacefully as we prosecute this case.”
After charges were filed against the officers in Baltimore, President Barack Obama commented, “What I think the people of Baltimore want more than anything else is the truth. That’s what people around the country expect.” While the president wouldn’t go into detail about pending legal proceedings, as per administration policy, he added that “justice needs to be served.”
Baltimore mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said in a statement immediately after charges were announced that she was “sickened and heartbroken” by the prosecutor’s report. “To those of you who want to engage in brutality, misconduct, racism and corruption, let me be clear: There is no place for you in the Baltimore City Police Department,” Rawlings-Blake said. She also ordered the immediate suspension of all six officers, five of whom turned themselves into custody Friday afternoon, CNN reports.