WASHINGTON, May 1 (Xinhua) — Maryland state prosecutor on Friday announced criminal charges against all six Baltimore police officers involved in the death of the 25-year-old black man Freddie Gray.
The state’s attorney for Baltimore City Marilyn Mosby, a 35- year-old African-American, said the arrest of Gray, who died on April 19 of a deadly spinal cord injury, was “illegal” and that the state medical examiner ruled Gray’s death a homicide.
Police officers had no probable reason for Gray’s arrest at the first place, Mosby said in a press conference, adding that a knife found in Gray’s pocket was not an illegal switchblade.
Meanwhile, Mosby confirmed previous media report that Gray’s deadly spinal cord injury occurred not during the police arrest but during his riding in the police van.
“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 (Baltimore Police Department) wagon,” she said. “We have probable cause to file criminal charges.”
Mosby also said the six police officers ignored Gray’s pleading for medical care at least on two occasions during transportation.
“Despite stopping for the purpose of checking on Mr. Gray’s condition, at no point did (the van driver officer Caesar Goodson) seek nor did he render any medical assistance for Mr. Gray,” said Mosby. “Officer Goodson returned to his driver’s seat and proceeded toward the central booking and intake facility with Mr. Gray still unsecured by a seatbelt.”
On one of the stops, according to Mosby, Gray “requested help and indicated that he could not breath” as officers were checking his status.
Upon arrival at a police station, Gray was no longer breathing, said Mosby.
Officer Goodson was charged with the second-degree depraved- heart murder while the other five officers were charged with crimes including assault, manslaughter and false imprisonment, the prosecutor said.
Five of the six officers have already been in custody, Baltimore mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said later on Friday.
“No one is above the law in our city,” Rawlings-Blake told reporters. “To those of you who wish to engage in brutality, misconduct, racism and corruption, let me clear: There is no place in the Baltimore City Police Department for you.”
In response to charges against the six police officers, the Baltimore City Fraternal Order of Police said in a statement on Friday that “each of the officers diligently balanced their obligations to protect Mr. Gray and discharge their duties to protect the public.”
The statement also called for an independent prosecutor to the Gray case because of the leading prosecutor Mosby’s “personal and professional relations with Gray family attorney, William Murphy.”
According to Baltimore local news daily Baltimore Sun, Murphy supported Mosby during her campaign last year and donated 5,000 U. S. dollars to her campaign. Murphy also served on Mosby’s transition committee.
While refusing to comment directly on the legal process, U.S. President Barack Obama said Friday that it was “absolutely vital that the truth comes out.”
“What I think the people of Baltimore want more than anything else is the truth,” Obama said after the announcement of charges. “That’s what people around the country expect.”
“Justice needs to be served,” he added.
Friday’s announcement from the state prosecutor came unexpected as Baltimore officials, including mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and Police Commissioner Anthony Batts, both African-Americans, were trying to play down public expectation that any charges against the six police officers would be presented Friday.
The city of Baltimore has witnessed a widespread of protests, sometimes uncontrolled ones, in the past 10 days due to the death of Gray, who died a week after his April 12 arrest.
Mosby also called on the public to remain calm, as the city was still healing from Monday’s widespread unrest hours after Gray’s funeral. According to Baltimore police department, 144 cars were set ablaze, 15 structures on fire and 200 rioters were arrested in Monday’s rioting.
“I heard your call for ‘no justice, no peace,'” Mosby said. ” Your peace is sincerely needed as I work to deliver justice on behalf of this young man.”