Six Baltimore, Md., police officers are facing charges in the death of Freddie Gray, an African-American resident who died a week after suffering a spinal cord injury while being arrested April 12.
Here’s the charges against the officers, as published on The Baltimore Sun’s website Friday:
• Officer Caesar Goodson Jr., 45, who was the driver of a police van that carried Gray through the streets of Baltimore, was charged with second-degree murder, manslaughter, second-degree assault, two vehicular manslaughter charges and misconduct in office.
• Officer William Porter, 25, was charged with involuntary manslaughter, second-degree assault and misconduct in office.
• Lt. Brian Rice, 41, was charged with involuntary manslaughter, second-degree assault and misconduct in office.
• Sgt. Alicia White, 30, was charged with involuntary manslaughter, second-degree assault and misconduct in office.
• Officer Edward Nero, 29, was charged with second-degree assault and misconduct in office.
• Officer Garrett Miller, 26, was charged with second-degree assault, misconduct in office and false imprisonment.
A lot of people have either decried or cheered the rioting which took place Saturday and Monday after Gray’s death. A lot of people have tried to analyze the reasons for the rioting -- which, by all accounts, started as peaceful protests.
I have a lot of thoughts about this, too, and they are mixed. On one hand, we can point all the way back to the American Revolution. I cannot believe every single action taken prior to the actual War were violent in nature. And yet, we won our freedom from the English crown through violent means.
The Civil Rights movement proved a mixture of peaceful protests and riots. Despite events in Baltimore and in Ferguson, Mo., both forms of protest resulted in legislation and societal changes which, while obviously not perfect by any means, are better than they were.
Nor can I say African-Americans and others in Ferguson, Baltimore and elsewhere haven’t been justified in protesting the seemingly endless cases of abuses by law enforcement agencies against African-Americans.
On the other hand, I do not believe violent protest -- rioting -- is the proper way to express the anger everyone ought to be feeling about what happened to Gray, Michael Brown in Ferguson or Eric Garner’s death in New York City after being placed in a chokehold by police.
Even if I were to condone the rioting -- which I don’t -- it came before the charges against the six Baltimore officers were handed down. No one knew the truth yet.
Indeed, I’m still not sure we know exactly what happened, but I don’t believe in vilifying law enforcement officers until I know exactly what’s going on.
The charges against the six police officers were laid out by Maryland State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby during a press conference Friday. Mosby is barely 100 days into her tenure as state’s attorney. She is also the country’s youngest at age 35. And she happens to be African-American, is from a family of cops, but said throughout her campaign she would prosecute cops when necessary.
It looks like she’s doing just that.
As reported by the Sun, during the press conference, Mosby said the officers had no probable cause to detain Gray. The Sun’s story did not indicate why officers said they chased Gray down. Mosby said they did find him in possession of a knife, but not a switchblade, which is legal under Maryland law. She said Gray was repeatedly denied medical attention by the officers despite asking for help. He was later found unresponsive in the police van in which officers transported him.
“Gray suffered a ‘severe and critical neck injury’ as a result of being handcuffed, shackled and being unrestrained in the van,” the Sun reported. The paper reported Mosby said an investigation determined the officers placed Gray in wrist and ankle restraints, but left him stomach down in the police van while driving around West Baltimore.
The Sun reported a crowd gathered at Mosby’s press conference cheered and applauded. I’m not surprised.
I applaud, too, but only to Mosby’s decision to prosecute these officers, not the events which led to those charges, nor the way in which some groups of Baltimore residents (or visitors -- like Ferguson, there have been accusations some of the rioters are not local) reacted to Gray’s death.
So, my question to Baltimore is “What now?” Will residents peacefully continue protesting the bad actions of six cops, or will they slide into what I consider criminal behavior -- behavior which destroyed some of their own buildings, businesses and other property? Or will they take a wait-and-see attitude regarding the outcome of this prosecution?
I would urge the latter.
I would also urge citizens everywhere to remember most officers, of all agencies, would never do what these officers allegedly did. They truly serve and protect and we should all be very grateful for their service, putting themselves in harm’s way to protect us, our families and property.
We should never look the other way when officers are accused of wrongdoing. However, we should never jump to conclusions either. An allegation is just that and, as slow as it can be, we must wait for justice to be done.