Six US officers charged in Freddie Gray death indicted

State attorney to pursue most serious charges despite ‘overzealous prosecution’ claim

The Baltimore police charged in relation to the death of Freddie Gray are (clockwise from top left): Officer Caesar Goodson, Officer Garrett Miller, Officer Edward Nero, Sgt Alicia White, Lt Brian Rice and Officer William Porter. Photographs: Baltimore Police Department/New York Times

The Baltimore police charged in relation to the death of Freddie Gray are (clockwise from top left): Officer Caesar Goodson, Officer Garrett Miller, Officer Edward Nero, Sgt Alicia White, Lt Brian Rice and Officer William Porter. Photographs: Baltimore Police Department/New York Times

 

A US grand jury has indicted all six officers charged over the death of Freddie Gray, who died of injuries suffered in police custody in Baltimore.

The decision allows the state attorney to press ahead with the most serious charges, despite criticism that she was part of an “overzealous prosecution”.

The indictments are similar to the charges state attorney Marilyn Mosby announced three weeks ago after the incident, which sparked major rioting in the city.

‘Depraved heart’ murder

The charges ranged from second-degree “depraved heart” murder to assault.

Lawyers for the officers have said in court documents that they are the victims of an “overzealous prosecution” riddled with personal and political conflicts of interest.

At a minimum, they said, Ms Mosby should be replaced with an independent prosecutor.

This was because she had a personal interest in calming unrest in the city and because her husband is a city councilman who represents the areas most affected by upheaval, they claimed.

Mr Gray suffered a critical spinal injury on April 12th after police handcuffed, shackled and placed him head-first into a van, Ms Mosby alleged. His pleas for medical attention were repeatedly ignored.

His death a week later spawned protests that twice gave way to violence and looting.

Two officers, Edward Nero and Garrett Miller, were indicted on second-degree assault, reckless endangerment and misconduct in office charges for “failure to perform a duty regarding the safety of a prisoner” and for an illegal arrest, Ms Mosby said.

Officer Caesar Goodson, who drove the van, faces manslaughter and a second-degree “depraved heart” murder charge, as well as misconduct in office and second-degree assault charges.

Sgt Alicia White, Lt Brian Rice and Officer William Porter are charged with manslaughter, second-degree assault and misconduct in office. They also face reckless-endangerment charges.

Officer Nero, Officer Miller and Lt Rice are white, and Officer Goodson, Officer Porter and Sgt White are black.

Mr Gray’s death became a symbol of what protesters say is a pattern of police brutality against African-Americans in Baltimore.

After the death, the Justice Department announced a civil rights investigation of Baltimore Police Department to search for discriminatory policing practices and examine allegations that officers too often use excessive force and make unconstitutional searches and arrests.

Eye contact

According to court documents, Mr Gray made eye contact with a police officer and took off running. He was apprehended two blocks away and arrested for possession of a knife that Officer Miller wrote in charging documents is illegal under a city ordinance. Ms Mosby said the arrest was unlawful because the knife is legal under state law.

None of the officers secured Mr Gray’s seatbelt in the van, a violation of police policy. Soon after he was placed in the van, Officer Goodson made a second stop during which Mr Gray was secured in leg irons because he was “irate”, police said.

After a ride that included two more stops, including one to pick up a second passenger, the van arrived at the Western District police station.

By that time, Mr Gray was non-responsive.

Press Association