Baltimore’s top prosecutor announced criminal charges Friday against all six officers suspended after a man suffered a fatal spinal injury in police custody, saying “no one is above the law.”
“Mr. Gray’s death was a homicide,” State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby declared. His arrest was illegal and his treatment in custody amounted to murder and manslaughter, she said.
The announcement came after nearly two weeks of growing anger over Freddie Gray’s death, and only hours after Mosby received the results of the internal police investigation and an official autopsy report. As Mosby spoke, the city was bracing for huge crowds in two more waves of protests Friday and Saturday.
Mosby announced the stiffest charge — second-degree “depraved heart” murder — against the driver of the police van. Other officers face charges of involuntary manslaughter, assault and illegal arrest.
The officers failed to get medical help even though Gray requested it repeatedly after he was chased down and pinned to a sidewalk on April 12 and hoisted into the van. At some point while he was in custody, he suffered a mysterious spinal injury and died a week later.
Mosby said the switchblade officers accused Gray of illegally carrying clipped inside his pants pocket was in fact a legal knife, and no justification for his arrest, which she said was illegal.
Mosby said she comes from five generations of police officers, and that the charges against these six officers should in no way damage the relationship between police and prosecutors in Baltimore.
She swiftly rejected a request from the Baltimore police officers union asking her to appoint a special independent prosecutor because of her ties to attorney Billy Murphy, who is representing Gray’s family. Murphy was among Mosby’s biggest campaign contributors last year, donating the maximum individual amount allowed, $4,000, in June. Murphy also served on Mosby’s transition team after the election.
Fraternal Order of Police local president Gene Ryan told Mosby in a letter before the charges were announced Friday that none of the six suspended officers were responsible for Gray’s death.
The state medical examiner’s office said it sent the autopsy report to prosecutors Friday morning. Spokesman Bruce Goldfarb says the Office of the Chief State Medical Examiner will not release the report publicly while the case is under investigation.
The announcement prompted whoops, hollers and shouts of “Justice!” in the streets of Baltimore.
At the corner of North and Pennsylvania avenues, where the worst of the rioting took place on Monday, drivers honked their horns. When buses stopped in front of the subway station, people spilled out cheering as the doors opened.
There was no large gathering at the intersection immediately after the announcement, though: Nearly 100 police in riot gear were deployed, and for the moment, they had nothing to do.
In front of a fire station where Gov. Larry Hogan was scheduled to visit Friday, a man leaning out of a passing truck window pumped both arms in the air and yelled, “Justice! Justice! Justice!”
Ciara Ford of Baltimore expressed surprise at the decision to prosecute.
“I’m ecstatic,” she said. “I hope this can restore some peace.”
“It makes you cry,” said her friend, Stephanie Owens of Columbia.
They both expressed hopes that the officers would be convicted. And both believed that the protests in the city made a difference in ensuring that authorities took the case seriously.
“If we had kept quiet, I don’t think they would have prosecuted,” Ford said.