Rage to relief in Baltimore as 6 officers charged in death

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Baltimore Police Officers to Face Homicide Charges in Freddie Gray Case

BALTIMORE (AP) -- Rage turned to relief in Baltimore on Friday when the city's top prosecutor charged six police officers with felonies ranging from assault to murder in the death of Freddie Gray.

State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby said Gray's arrest was illegal and unjustified, and that his neck was broken because he was handcuffed, shackled and placed head-first into a police van, where his pleas for medical attention were repeatedly ignored as he bounced around inside the small metal box.

The swiftness of her announcement, less than a day after receiving the police department's criminal investigation and official autopsy results, took the city by surprise. So too did her detailed description, based in part on her office's independent investigation, of the evidence supporting probable cause to charge all six officers with felonies.

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Rage to relief in Baltimore as 6 officers charged in death
This photo provided by the Baltimore Police Department on Friday, May 1, 2015 shows, top row from left, Caesar R. Goodson Jr., Garrett E. Miller and Edward M. Nero, and bottom row from left, William G. Porter, Brian W. Rice and Alicia D. White, the six police officers charged with felonies ranging from assault to murder in the death of Freddie Gray. (Baltimore Police Department via AP)
BALTIMORE, MD- SEPTEMBER 02: Several protesters march and rally in downtown Baltimore. Some even blocked intersections impeding traffic. Today is the first hearing for six Baltimore police officers charged in the death Freddie Gray in Baltimore, Maryland on September 02, 2015. (Photo by Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
BALTIMORE, MD- SEPTEMBER 02: Several protesters march and rally in downtown Baltimore. Some even blocked intersections impeding traffic. Today is the first hearing for six Baltimore police officers charged in the death Freddie Gray in Baltimore, Maryland on September 02, 2015. (Photo by Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
BALTIMORE, MD - SEPTEMBER 02: City Sheriff's deputies form a perimeter around State's Attorney for Baltimore Marilyn Mosby (C) as she leaves the Baltimore City Circuit Courthouse East where pre-trial hearings were held for six police officers charged in the death of Freddie Gray September 2, 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland. Earlier this year Gray, 25, suffered a severe spinal cord injury while in police custody and later died. His funeral was followed by rioting, looting and arson. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
BALTIMORE, MD- SEPTEMBER 02: Kwame Rose is arrested after he and several other protesters blocked various intersections in downtown Baltimore. The first hearing for six Baltimore police officers charged in the death Freddie Gray in Baltimore, Maryland on September 02, 2015. (Photo by Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
BALTIMORE, MD - SEPTEMBER 02: A small and peaceful group of demonstrators gather to protest in front of the Baltimore City Circuit Courthouse East where pre-trial hearings will be held for six police officers charged in the death of Freddie Gray September 2, 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland. Earlier this year Gray, 25, suffered a severe spinal cord injury while in police custody and later died. His funeral was followed by rioting, looting and arson. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
BALTIMORE, MD - SEPTEMBER 02: A Baltimore City Sheriff's deputy moves among a small crowd of peaceful demonstrators in front of the Baltimore City Circuit Courthouse East where pre-trial hearings will be held for six police officers charged in the death of Freddie Gray September 2, 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland. Earlier this year Gray, 25, suffered a severe spinal cord injury while in police custody and later died. His funeral was followed by rioting, looting and arson. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
BALTIMORE, MD - SEPTEMBER 02: A small and peacful group of demonstrators gather to protest in front of the Baltimore City Circuit Courthouse East where pre-trial hearings will be held for six police officers charged in the death of Freddie Gray September 2, 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland. Earlier this year Gray, 25, suffered a severe spinal cord injury while in police custody and later died. His funeral was followed by rioting, looting and arson. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Marilyn Mosby, Baltimore state's attorney, speaks during a media availability, Friday, May 1, 2015 in Baltimore. Mosby announced criminal charges against all six officers suspended after Freddie Gray suffered a fatal spinal injury in police custody. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Billy Murphy, an attorney who represents the family of Freddie Gray, stands between Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, seated far left, and Gov. Larry Hogan, center, as Hogan signs a bill to create a commission to study the implementation of police body cameras, Tuesday, May 12, 2015 in Annapolis, Md. Murphy said: The bills Hogan is signing Tuesday were approved before the death of Freddie Gray, who was fatally injured in Baltimore police custody last month. (AP Photo/Brian Witte)
Freddie Gray's stepfather Richard Shipley, right, speaks, as attorney Billy Murphy stands nearby, during a press availability at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture, Friday, May 1, 2015 in Baltimore. State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby announced criminal charges against all six officers suspended after Freddie Gray suffered a fatal spinal injury while in police custody in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Freddie Gray's stepfather Richard Shipley speaks during a press availability at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture, Friday, May 1, 2015, in Baltimore. State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby announced criminal charges against all six officers suspended after Freddie Gray suffered a fatal spinal injury while in police custody in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Marilyn Mosby, Baltimore state's attorney, speaks during a media availability, Friday, May 1, 2015 in Baltimore. Mosby announced criminal charges against all six officers suspended after Freddie Gray suffered a fatal spinal injury while in police custody. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Marilyn Mosby, Baltimore state's attorney, speaks during a media availability, Friday, May 1, 2015 in Baltimore. Mosby announced criminal charges against all six officers suspended after Freddie Gray suffered a fatal spinal injury while in police custody. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Charvae Day, right, and Renay Battle react on Friday, May 1, 2015, after State's Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby announced criminal charges against all six officers suspended after Freddie Gray suffered a fatal spinal injury while in police custody in Baltimore. Mosby announced the stiffest charge, second-degree depraved heart murder, against the driver of the police van. Other officers faced charges of involuntary manslaughter, assault and illegal arrest. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Marilyn Mosby, with folder, Baltimore state's attorney, departs after a media availability, Friday, May 1, 2015 in Baltimore. Mosby announced criminal charges against all six officers suspended after Freddie Gray suffered a fatal spinal injury while in police custody.(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake speaks during a media availability at City Hall, Friday, May 1, 2015 in Baltimore. Rawlings-Blake says five of six officers charged in the death of Freddie Gray are in custody. State's Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby announced criminal charges Friday against all six officers. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
President Barack Obama pauses as he answers a question about the situation in Baltimore during a meeting in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, Friday, May 1, 2015, with persecuted journalists to mark World Press Freedom Day. The president Barack Obama said it's "absolutely vital" that the truth about what happened to Freddie Gray comes out. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake arrives to speak at a media availability at City Hall, Friday, May 1, 2015 in Baltimore. Rawlings-Blake says five of six officers charged in the death of Freddie Gray are in custody. State's Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby announced criminal charges Friday against all six officers. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
BALTIMORE, MD - MAY 01: Protesters march through the streets in support of Maryland state attorney Marilyn Mosby's announcement that charges would be filed against Baltimore police officers in the death of Freddie Gray on May 1, 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland. Gray died in police custody after being arrested on April 12, 2015. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
BALTIMORE, MD - MAY 01: Protesters march through the streets in support of Maryland state attorney Marilyn Mosby's announcement that charges would be filed against Baltimore police officers in the death of Freddie Gray on May 1, 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland. Gray died in police custody after being arrested on April 12, 2015. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
BALTIMORE, MD - MAY 01: Protesters march on North Avenue after Baltimore authorities released a report on the death of Freddie Gray on May 1, 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland. Marilyn Mosby, Baltimore City state's attorney, ruled the death of Freddie Gray a homicide and that criminal charges will be filed. Gray, 25, was arrested for possessing a switch blade knife April 12 outside the Gilmor Houses housing project on Baltimore's west side. According to his attorney, Gray died a week later in the hospital from a severe spinal cord injury he received while in police custody. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Freddie Gray's twin sister Fredricka Gray sits during a press availability at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture, Friday, May 1, 2015 in Baltimore. State's Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby announced criminal charges against all six officers suspended after Freddie Gray suffered a fatal spinal injury while in police custody in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Freddie Gray's stepfather Richard Shipley, right, sits during a press availability at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture, Friday, May 1, 2015 in Baltimore. State's Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby announced Friday criminal charges against all six officers suspended after Freddie Gray suffered a fatal spinal injury while in police custody in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Adrian Roberson, right, celebrates on Friday, May 1, 2015, after State's Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby announced criminal charges against all six officers suspended after Freddie Gray suffered a fatal spinal injury while in police custody in Baltimore. Mosby announced the stiffest charge, second-degree depraved heart murder, against the driver of the police van. Other officers faced charges of involuntary manslaughter, assault and illegal arrest. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Police officers stand guard with the War Memorial behind, Friday, May 1, 2015 in Baltimore. State's Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby announced criminal charges Friday, against all six officers suspended after Freddie Gray suffered a fatal spinal injury in police custody in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
The Rev. Pamela Coleman, center speaks on a city bus on Friday, May 1, 2015, after State's Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby announced criminal charges against all six officers suspended after Freddie Gray suffered a fatal spinal injury while in police custody in Baltimore. Mosby announced the stiffest charge, second-degree depraved heart murder, against the driver of the police van. Other officers faced charges of involuntary manslaughter, assault and illegal arrest. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Dominique Cunningham celebrates on Friday, May 1, 2015, after State's Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby announced criminal charges against all six officers suspended after Freddie Gray suffered a fatal spinal injury while in police custody in Baltimore. Mosby announced the stiffest charge, second-degree depraved heart murder, against the driver of the police van. Other officers faced charges of involuntary manslaughter, assault and illegal arrest. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Rabbi Yerachmiel Shapiro, left, and other citizens celebrate on Friday, May 1, 2015, after State's Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby announced criminal charges against all six officers suspended after Freddie Gray suffered a fatal spinal injury while in police custody in Baltimore. Mosby announced the stiffest charge, second-degree depraved heart murder, against the driver of the police van. Other officers faced charges of involuntary manslaughter, assault and illegal arrest. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Meach Johnson celebrates on Friday, May 1, 2015, after State's Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby announced criminal charges against all six officers suspended after Freddie Gray suffered a fatal spinal injury while in police custody in Baltimore. Mosby announced the stiffest charge, second-degree depraved heart murder, against the driver of the police van. Other officers faced charges of involuntary manslaughter, assault and illegal arrest. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
A man shakes hands with a National Guard soldier outside City Hall, Friday, May 1, 2015 in Baltimore. State's Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby announced criminal charges Friday, against all six officers suspended after Freddie Gray suffered a fatal spinal injury in police custody. Mosby announced the stiffest charge, second-degree depraved heart murder, against the driver of the police van. Other officers faced charges of involuntary manslaughter, assault and illegal arrest. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Protesters link arms while marching toward City Hall to demonstrate the police-custody death of Freddie Gray, Thursday, April 30, 2015, in Baltimore. Baltimore police say they have turned over their criminal investigation to a prosecutor who will decide whether charges are warranted in the death of Freddie Gray. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
BALTIMORE, MD - MAY 02: A man tears up on the street at North Ave., and Pennsylvania Ave., in West Baltimore a day after Baltimore authorities released a report on the death of Freddie Gray, May 2, 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland. Marilyn Mosby, Baltimore City state's attorney, ruled the death of Freddie Gray a homicide and that criminal charges would be filed against six Baltimore City Police officers. Gray, 25, was arrested for possessing a switch blade knife on April 12 outside the Gilmor Homes housing project on Baltimore's west side. According to his attorney, Gray died a week later in the hospital from a severe spinal cord injury he received while in police custody. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
BALTIMORE, MD - MAY 02: People participate in a dance party on North Ave., a day after Baltimore authorities released a report on the death of Freddie Gray, May 2, 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland. Marilyn Mosby, Baltimore City state's attorney, ruled the death of Freddie Gray a homicide and that criminal charges would be filed against six Baltimore City Police officers. Gray, 25, was arrested for possessing a switch blade knife on April 12 outside the Gilmor Homes housing project on Baltimore's west side. According to his attorney, Gray died a week later in the hospital from a severe spinal cord injury he received while in police custody. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
BALTIMORE, MD - MAY 02: People participate in a dance party on North Ave., on the street a day after Baltimore authorities released a report on the death of Freddie Gray, May 2, 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland. Marilyn Mosby, Baltimore City state's attorney, ruled the death of Freddie Gray a homicide and that criminal charges would be filed against six Baltimore City Police officers. Gray, 25, was arrested for possessing a switch blade knife on April 12 outside the Gilmor Homes housing project on Baltimore's west side. According to his attorney, Gray died a week later in the hospital from a severe spinal cord injury he received while in police custody. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
BALTIMORE, MD - MAY 02: Protesters march on the street from City Hall a day after Baltimore authorities released a report on the death of Freddie Gray, May 2, 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland. Marilyn Mosby, Baltimore City state's attorney, ruled the death of Freddie Gray a homicide and that criminal charges would be filed against six Baltimore City Police officers. Gray, 25, was arrested for possessing a switch blade knife on April 12 outside the Gilmor Homes housing project on Baltimore's west side. According to his attorney, Gray died a week later in the hospital from a severe spinal cord injury he received while in police custody. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
BALTIMORE, MD - MAY 01: Protesters march through the streets in support of Maryland state attorney Marilyn Mosby's announcement that charges would be filed against Baltimore police officers in the death of Freddie Gray on May 1, 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland. Gray died in police custody after being arrested on April 12, 2015. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
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The police had no reason to stop or chase after Gray, Mosby said. They falsely accused him of having an illegal switchblade when in fact it was a legal pocketknife. The van driver and the other officers failed to strap him down with a seatbelt, a direct violation of department policy, and they ignored Gray's repeated pleas for medical attention, even rerouting the van to pick up another passenger.

Mosby did not say whether there was any indication the driver deliberately drove erratically, causing Gray's body to strike the van's interior. In 2005, a man died of a fractured spine after he was transported in a Baltimore police van in handcuffs and without a seat belt. At a civil trial, an attorney for his family successfully argued police had given him a "rough ride."

The officers missed five opportunities to help an injured and falsely imprisoned detainee before he arrived at the police station no longer breathing, she said. Along the way, "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 wagon," she concluded.

Her announcement triggered celebrations across the same West Baltimore streets that were smoldering just four days earlier, when Gray's funeral led to riots and looting.

"We are satisfied with today's charges," Gray's stepfather, Richard Shipley, told a news conference. "These charges are an important step in getting justice for Freddie."

But a lawyer hired by the police union insisted the officers did nothing wrong. Attorney Michael Davey said Friday that Mosby has committed "an egregious rush to judgment."

"We have grave concerns about the fairness and integrity of the prosecution of our officers," Davey said.

Mosby rejected a police union request to step aside and appoint a special prosecutor to handle the case, and said honorable police officers should have no problem working with prosecutors in Baltimore.

Other law enforcement veterans worried that the charges could have a chilling effect. Robert Leight, a former detective in Pennsylvania who has worked for the FBI and as a federal prosecutor and defense attorney, said "the biggest danger is that the police officer will not properly perform his duties."

"It puts him at risk, it puts the other officers around him at risk, and it puts the public at risk," Leight said. "A police officer must react instinctively as he has been trained. If a police officer first thinks about what liabilities he will be facing, it's too late."

Gray was stopped by police in Sandtown, a poor, overwhelmingly African-American neighborhood in West Baltimore. He locked eyes with a police officer and then ran. Two blocks later, they pinned him to the sidewalk, handcuffed him and dragged him into a transport van, a scene captured on bystander's cellphone video and shown around the world.

Mosby said the police review, the autopsy and her own office's investigation all point to homicide. The officers were booked Friday on charges ranging from assault and manslaughter, carrying 10-year prison sentences, to second-degree "depraved heart" murder, which could put the van driver in prison for 30 years if convicted.

In a city that struggles daily with pervasive poverty and widespread joblessness, failing schools, drug addiction, a crumbling infrastructure and corruption, Gray's death has become emblematic of the broad social and economic problems holding Baltimore down. But unlike other major cities grappling with police killings, Baltimore's mayor, state's attorney and police commissioner are black, like the majority of the city's population.

Helen Holton, a 20-year veteran city councilmember, said the announcement by Mosby, who accused her predecessor of being out of touch with the community, is "a defining moment in the future of Baltimore."

"It's time. I hate that Freddie Gray is not here," she said. "I hate it, but to Freddie Gray's legacy, he has served as the tipping point for us to take a real inside look at what many people have chosen to ignore."

The city, which has been on edge since Gray's death on April 19, remains under a nighttime curfew, with 2,000 National Guard troops augmenting police reinforcements from around the state of Maryland. Malik Shabazz, the president of Black Lawyers for Justice, says Saturday's protest march will now be a "victory rally," and said Mosby is "setting a standard for prosecutors all over the nation."

At City Hall, Andrea Otom, 41, sobbed with something like joy.

"You have to be able to expect that at some time, the pendulum will swing in your favor, and in the black community we've seen it over and over and over where it doesn't," Otom said. "I'm so happy to see a day where the pendulum has finally begun to swing."

U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings, a Democrat from West Baltimore, not far from where Gray was raised and arrested, said the neighborhood and others like it "have never seen a victory."

"So many felt like the system had worked against them," Cummings said Friday. "As we approach the evening of our lives, we want to make sure our children have a better morning."

In an impassioned statement delivered shortly after the charges were made public, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake warned that police misconduct will not be tolerated on her watch.

"To those of you who wish to engage in brutality, misconduct, racism and corruption, let me be clear," she said, "there is no place in the Baltimore City Police Department for you."

Rashawn Ray, a sociologist at the University of Maryland, said the murder and manslaughter charges in Gray's death shape a debate that goes much deeper than legal limits on use of force by police officers. It has triggered the frustration, anger and hopelessness of generations of disenfranchised people in Baltimore's most marginalized neighborhoods, he said.

"This definitely seems like the first time in recent history that the state has done what the community feels is the right thing," Ray said. "These charges become a representation of culpability, responsibility, that the state can't just treat citizens like they are not human beings."

"It's symbolic not just of police brutality," Ray said. "Maybe we are progressing toward the equality that we should have been moving toward decades ago."

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Associated Press writer Amanda Lee Myers contributed to this report.

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