The morning of April 12, 2015 was like so many others in Baltimore. The city was waking up, police beginning to go about their business of detecting, defeating, and deterring crime. Lt. Brian Rice and others were assigned to a drug trafficking and violence reduction mission when he noticed a group of men setting up what he believed to be a drug sale spot. The police were only recently told to concentrate efforts on this particular location by the Baltimore chief prosecutor. When the officer was noticed, two of the men fled and Lt. Rice called for help in the pursuit. A short distance away, two Baltimore bicycle patrol officers, Edward Nero and Garrett Miller, closed in on one of the fleeing suspects, Freddie Gray, who realized the futility of his flight and surrendered to detention. Gray was handcuffed and walked a short distance to where the police bikes were dropped. The officers then noticed, and took from Gray, a spring-loaded folding knife, an illegal knife, and arrested him.
Freddie Gray was well known to police. He had arrest after arrest for drug related crimes and was known to engage in street theatrics, which began as soon as the knife was taken from him. Despite his earlier asking for his inhaler as he was having trouble breathing after running from the police, Gray began flailing, kicking and screaming, which started to draw a crowd in the neighborhood. The gathering crowd encouraged Gray and caused the police to quickly put him in a police wagon and move a few blocks away so that he could be more effectively secured. As soon as the wagon doors were closed, Gray began kicking them and screaming at the officers.
A few blocks away, the officers put leg shackles on the combative detainee, who continued to violently kick and bang against the police wagon’s interior partition. Once again, a crowd started to grow around the police scene and the officers drove off.
The police wagon driver, Officer Caesar Goodson, made two more brief stops, the second to check on the combative Gray. At the second stop, Officer Goodson requested a backup officer to assist. Officer Porter checked on Gray, who had no visible injuries and was talking freely; however, Officer Porter asked Gray if he wanted to go to the hospital and Gray responded affirmatively. Moments later, Lt. Rice asked for urgent backup and transport wagon near the original arrest location for another arrests and the officers immediately responded.
On their return to North Avenue, a second fleeing suspect had been taken into custody and was placed in the other side of the police wagon with Gray. By now, Sgt. Alicia White was on the scene and she asked Gray whether he had a complaint to make. Gray didn’t respond and the wagon departed. Between that (fifth) stop and the district office, Gray was violently, aggressively banging his head against the wagon’s internal partition. When police went to remove the second detainee from the wagon, officers checked on Freddie Gray and immediately summoned medical help.
Within one day of the completion of an investigative report on Gray’s arrest, transport, and death, Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby stacked felony charges against four of the six police officers. The two other officers were charged with misdemeanor crimes. In announcing the charges, she telegraphed the force behind this astonishing rush to judgment, saying to demonstrators who had been assaulting police and destroying parts of the city, “I heard your call for ‘No justice, no peace.’” Folding to mob rule, Mosby intends to seek her version of justice for a repeat criminal offender who very likely caused his own fatal injuries. She has no evidence to the contrary.
Marilyn Mosby’s quest was to convict, jail and permanently damage six Baltimore police officers, accusing them of crimes including “depraved heart” murder, while she ran toward the limelight herself. Instead of waiting for a thorough, unbiased investigation to be concluded, Mosby leapt at the chance to indict Baltimore officers and place the entire department under a cloud of suspicion.
By early summer 2016, Mosby’s cases began to unravel under the glare of the same media lights she thought would reveal her as a star. After a hung jury and mistrial in the case of Officer William Porter, Mosby’s prosecutors ran into a buzzsaw whose name was Baltimore Judge Barry Williams. In three successive bench trials, Judge Williams systematically dismantled each and every charge leveled against Officers Ed Nero and Caesar Goodson, and Lt. Brian Rice.
In late July 2016, a humiliated but angry Mosby finally saw the writing on the wall as she dropped all remaining charges against the other accused officers. In doing so, she pointed the finger of blame in every direction but her own. Unfortunately, too few citizens took the time to attend the civics lesson provided in Judge Williams’ courtroom and too few will read the opinions he handed down in the case. The false narrative offered by Mosby and others will ring in too many ears for too long, making Baltimore a dangerous city.
Although the six officers were cleared of criminal charges and returned to work, five of them faced departmental charges based on alleged administrative failures.
UPDATE – November 2017: In October 2017, Officers Ed Nero and Garrett Miller settled their administrative charges with the Baltimore Police Department, allowing them to get back to work and on with their lives. In early November 2017, the police panel deciding on Officer Caesar Goodson’s administrative charges found in his favor on all 21 charges. Then, in mid-November, Lt. Brian Rice was found not culpable of 10 charges against him. Finally, before Thanksgiving, the Baltimore Police commissioner dropped remaining administrative charges against Sgt. Alicia White.
The LELDF is delighted by the final outcome of this case, with each of the accused officers ultimately being welcomed back to the jobs that made their lives so uncertain for the last two and a half years. Six Baltimore police officers should never have been charged in this case. The LELDF is proud to have stood with them and their families during the ordeal.