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DOJ declines to charge officers in Freddie Gray death due to “insufficient evidence”

by Alexa Liautaud
Sep 12 2017, 2:30pm

None of the Baltimore officers involved in death of Freddie Gray in April 2015 will face federal charges, the Justice Department announced Tuesday, citing “insufficient evidence” that the officers had breached Gray’s civil rights.

Gray, a 25-year-old black man who was arrested for allegedly carrying an illegal switchblade, died in police custody from a broken neck incurred in the back of a police van that was transporting him.

His death sparked protests and demonstrations across Baltimore so intense the National Guard was deployed.

“After an extensive review of this tragic event, conducted by career prosecutors and investigators, the Justice Department concluded that the evidence is insufficient to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Officer Caesar Goodson, Officer William Porter, Officer Garrett Miller, Officer Edward Nero, Lieutenant Brian Rice, or Sergeant Alicia White willfully violated Gray’s civil rights,” the Justice Department told VICE News in a statement. “Accordingly, the investigation into this incident has been closed without prosecution.”

Six Baltimore police officers were charged by state prosecutors with a range of crimes after Gray’s death, including a second-degree depraved heart murder for the driver of the van — which would mandate a 30-year sentence. The other officers were charged with a host of lesser crimes, including involuntary manslaughter, second-degree assault, false imprisonment, and misconduct in office charges, based on their role in the transport. None of the officers were convicted in a bench trial, and Baltimore city officials ultimately settled with Gray’s family for $6.4 million, though that settlement did not “represent any judgment” on the whether the police were guilty, Baltimore’s Mayor said at the time.

The Justice Department under then-President Barack Obama also opened an investigation into whether Gray’s civil rights had been breached, which was closed today.

The Baltimore Police Department told VICE News it couldn’t provide any details on the decision other than that the schedule for public disciplinary trials was publicly available on its website.

Five of the officers face internal disciplinary trials in the fall and winter, Michael Davey, a lawyer for the Baltimore Fraternal Order of Police confirmed to the Baltimore Sun. The Baltimore Police Department website shows the schedule for the trials but not the names of the officers.

Three officers, including the driver of the van, face termination, according to the Washington Post which cited sources “with knowledge of the case.” The two officers who arrested Gray face suspension for five days without pay, and the sixth officer won’t face any internal repercussions, despite the fact that state prosecutors had initially charged him with manslaughter, the Post reported.

The attorney representing Gray’s family did not immediately respond to VICE News’ request for comment.

An investigation into the Baltimore City Police Department by the Justice Department last year found that the BPD engaged in “a pattern or practice” of enforcement strategies resulting in “severe and unjustified rates of stops, searches and arrests of African Americans.”

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