A Baltimore judge found a police lieutenant charged in the death of Freddie Gray not guilty on all counts on Monday, the latest non-conviction for the cops involved in the April 2015 incident.
Monday's verdict from Judge Barry Williams was handed down against 42-year-old Brian Rice, the most senior police officer put on trial for the 25-year-old black man's death more than a year ago. Rice opted for a bench trial, meaning a judge rather than a jury decided the verdict.
Rice was facing up to 15 years in prison on charges that included involuntary manslaughter, office misconduct, and second-degree reckless assault.
The officer had relayed orders to two cops on bike patrol to chase after Gray fled on foot from an area in West Baltimore. Once Gray was detained in handcuffs and shackles, Rice helped to secure him into the police vehicle, where he eventually sustained the spine and neck injuries that killed him.
Prosecutors said Rice was negligent in shackling Gray's legs and not securing him in a seat belt, as required by department protocol.
Defense attorneys argued that Rice was allowed leeway on whether to get inside a van to secure a prisoner. The lawyers said the officer made a correct decision in a few seconds while Gray was being combative and a hostile crowd was looking on.
Gray was arrested on the morning of April 12, 2015 after the foot chase with police in West Baltimore. The cops said Gray fled after making eye contact with an officer, and they later alleged that he was carrying an illegal pocketknife.
After Gray was was loaded into police wagon, the vehicle made a number of stops on its way to the police station. When they arrived, Gray was found unresponsive with a broken neck and a compressed spinal cord. He died a week later.
Five other officers have been charged, and Rice was the fourth to go to trial. The case of Officer William Porter ended in a mistrial last December. Officer Edward Nero was found not guilty by Williams in a bench trial last month.
Officer Caesar Goodson, who drove the police van that carried Gray after his arrest and faced the most serious charges, was acquitted in June.
Reuters contributed to this report.
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