Baltimore police officer acquitted in Freddie Gray death

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Baltimore Officer Found Not Guilty of Charges in Death of Freddie Gray

BALTIMORE, May 23 (Reuters) - Baltimore police officer Edward Nero was acquitted on Monday of all charges in the 2015 death of black detainee Freddie Gray, an incident that triggered rioting and protests and fueled the Black Lives Matter movement.

Baltimore City Circuit Court Judge Barry Williams, who heard the case in a bench trial, issued the verdict before a packed courtroom. Nero, 30, had faced misdemeanor charges of second-degree assault, reckless endangerment and two counts of misconduct in office.

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There were no initial signs of rioting after the verdict but a group of protesters chased members of Nero's family into a parking garage, yelling, "No justice, no peace."

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake issued a statement urging calm and said Nero would face an administrative review by the police department.

"In the case of any disturbance in the city, we are prepared to respond," she said.

Nero had been charged with arresting Gray, 25, without justification in April 2015 and failing to secure him in a police van, where he suffered a fatal spine injury.

See the protests after Gray's death:

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Protests in response to mistrial in Freddie Gray case, Baltimore
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Baltimore police officer acquitted in Freddie Gray death
BALTIMORE, MD - DECEMBER 16: Protesters march through the streets after a mistrial was declared in the trial of Baltimore police Officer William G. Porter, December 16, 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland. The judge declared a mistrial on the third day of deliberations in Porter's trial, which is the first of six trials of police officers involved in the death of Freddie Gray. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
BALTIMORE, MD - DECEMBER 16: Protesters confront Baltimore City Police officers as they march through the streets after a mistrial was declared in the trial of Baltimore police Officer William G. Porter, December 16, 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland. The judge declared a mistrial on the third day of deliberations in Porter's trial, which is the first of six trials of police officers involved in the death of Freddie Gray. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
A protester speaks to policeman in reaction to a mistrial declared in the trial of police officer William Porter in Baltimore, Maryland on December 16, 2015. The manslaughter trial of a Baltimore policeman accused over the death in custody of African-American Freddie Gray was declared a mistrial after the jury failed to reach a verdict, putting the city on edge. Police were out in force in parts of the gritty East Coast city in a bid to avoid a repeat of the riots and looting that erupted after the death in April of the 25-year-old Gray, the latest in a series of high-profile cases of perceived police brutality in the United States. AFP PHOTO/MOLLY RILEY / AFP / MOLLY RILEY (Photo credit should read MOLLY RILEY/AFP/Getty Images)
Protesters march in Baltimore after the announcement of a hung jury in the trial of Officer William Porter in the Freddie Gray case, on Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2015. (Lloyd Fox/Baltimore Sun/TNS via Getty Images)
BALTIMORE, MD - DECEMBER 16: Protesters gather at the site of last Aprils riots after todays mistrial in the trial of Baltimore police Officer William G. Porter, December 16, 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland. The judge declared a mistrial on third day of deliberations in PorterÃs trial, which is the first of six trials of police officers involved in the death of Freddie Gray.Ã (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
BALTIMORE, MD - DECEMBER 16: A protester holds a sign at the site of last Aprils riots after todays mistrial in the trial of Baltimore police Officer William G. Porter, December 16, 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland. The judge declared a mistrial on third day of deliberations in PorterÃs trial, which is the first of six trials of police officers involved in the death of Freddie Gray.Ã (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
BALTIMORE, MD - DECEMBER 16: Police stand guard as protesters march through the streets hours after a mistrial was declared in the trial of Baltimore police Officer William G. Porter, December 16, 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland. The judge declared a mistrial on the third day of deliberations in Porter's trial, which is the first of six trials of police officers involved in the death of Freddie Gray. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
BALTIMORE, MD - DECEMBER 16: Protesters march through the streets hours after a mistrial was declared in the trial of Baltimore police Officer William G. Porter, December 16, 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland. The judge declared a mistrial on third day of deliberations in Porter's trial, which is the first of six trials of police officers involved in the death of Freddie Gray. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
Richard Shipley, Freddie Gray'stepfather, left, with Gray's mother Gloria Darden and lawyer Billy Murphy speaks with the media after a mistrial was declared in the manslaughter trial of Officer William Porter, one of six Baltimore city police officers charged in connection to the death of Freddie Gray on Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2015, in Baltimore Md. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)
The Rev. C.D. Witherspoon speaks during a peaceful protest at the intersection of North and Pennsylvania Avenues, Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2015, in Baltimore, the site of unrest following the funeral of Freddie Gray. Peaceful protests took place in response to a hung jury and mistrial for Officer William Porter, one of six Baltimore city police officers charged in connection to Gray's death. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
Demonstrators protest outside of the city hall in response to a hung jury and mistrial for Officer William Porter, one of six Baltimore city police officers charged in connection to the death of Freddie Gray, Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2015, in Baltimore Md. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)
Protesters march in Baltimore after the announcement of a hung jury in the trial of Officer William Porter in the Freddie Gray case, on Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2015. (Lloyd Fox/Baltimore Sun/TNS via Getty Images)
Demonstrators protest outside of the courthouse after a mistrial was declared in the manslaughter trial of Officer William Porter, one of six Baltimore city police officers charged in connection to the death of Freddie Gray, on Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2015, in Baltimore Md. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)
BALTIMORE MD- DECEMBER 16: Law enforcement warns the displeased protesters that they are breaking the law as they react to the mistrial declared in the Freddie Gray Case at the Baltimore City Circuit County Court for Baltimore officer William G. Porter accused of involuntary manslaughter in Baltimore, Maryland on December 16, 2015. (Photo by Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
Mayor Stephanie Rawlings Blake, left, and Police Commissioner Kevin Davis, right, during a news conference at police headquarters with other city officials to discuss plans for dealing with the reaction to the announcement of a hung jury in the trial of Officer William Porter, on Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2015. (Amy Davis/Baltimore Sun/TNS via Getty Images)
Protesters march around City Hall in Baltimore after the announcement of a hung jury in the trial of Officer William Porter in the Freddie Gray case, on Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2015. (Lloyd Fox/Baltimore Sun/TNS via Getty Images)
Police stand outside the Baltimore City Circuit Courthouse after the hung-jury was announced in the trial of Police Officer William Porter, in Baltimore, Maryland on December 16, 2015. The manslaughter trial of a Baltimore policeman accused over the death in custody of African-American Freddie Gray was declared a mistrial after the jury failed to a reach a verdict, putting the city on edge. AFP PHOTO/ MOLLY RILEY / AFP / MOLLY RILEY (Photo credit should read MOLLY RILEY/AFP/Getty Images)
A demonstrator is detained outside of the courthouse after a mistrial of Officer William Porter, one of six Baltimore city police officers charged in connection to the death of Freddie Gray, on Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2015, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)
Demonstrators protest outside of the courthouse in response to a hung jury and mistrial for Officer William Porter, one of six Baltimore city police officers charged in connection to the death of Freddie Gray, Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2015, in Baltimore Md. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)
BALTIMORE, MD - DECEMBER 16: A protester yells at members of the Baltimore City Sheriffs Department in front of the Baltimore City City Circuit Courthouse East, after a mistrial was declared in the trial of Baltimore police Officer William G. Porter, December 16, 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland. The judge declared a mistrial on third day of deliberations in Porter's trial, which is the first of six trials of police officers involved in the death of Freddie Gray. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
One protestor tries to calm another after officers from the Baltimore Sheriff's Department arrested a protestor across the street from Courthouse East following the announcement of a hung jury in the trial of Officer William Porter, on Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2015. (Kenneth K. Lam/Baltimore Sun/TNS via Getty Images)
Officers from the Baltimore Sheriff's Department try to secure the area as they arrest a protestor across the street from Courthouse East after the announcement of a hung jury in the trial of Officer William Porter in the Freddie Gray case, on Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2015. (Kenneth K. Lam/Baltimore Sun/TNS via Getty Images)
A demonstrator holds a sign during the trial of Police Officer William Porter at Baltimore City Circuit Courthouse, December 16, 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland. AFP PHOTO/MOLLY RILEY / AFP / MOLLY RILEY (Photo credit should read MOLLY RILEY/AFP/Getty Images)
Protesters react outside Baltimore City Circuit Courthouse after the hung-jury was announced in the trial of Police Officer William Porter, in Baltimore, Maryland on December 16, 2015. The manslaughter trial of a Baltimore policeman accused over the death in custody of African-American Freddie Gray was declared a mistrial after the jury failed to a reach a verdict, putting the city on edge. AFP PHOTO/ MOLLY RILEY / AFP / MOLLY RILEY (Photo credit should read MOLLY RILEY/AFP/Getty Images)
Officers from the Baltimore Sheriff's Department arrest a protestor across the street from Courthouse East after the announcement of a hung jury in the trial of Officer William Porter in the Freddie Gray case, on Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2015. (Kenneth K. Lam/Baltimore Sun/TNS via Getty Images)
A demonstrator holds a sign during the trial of Police Officer William Porter at Baltimore City Circuit Courthouse, December 16, 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland. AFP PHOTO/MOLLY RILEY / AFP / MOLLY RILEY (Photo credit should read MOLLY RILEY/AFP/Getty Images)
Police arrest a protester outside Baltimore City Circuit Courthouse after the hung-jury was announced in the trial of Police Officer William Porter, in Baltimore, Maryland on December 16, 2015. The manslaughter trial of a Baltimore policeman accused over the death in custody of African-American Freddie Gray was declared a mistrial after the jury failed to a reach a verdict, putting the city on edge. AFP PHOTO/ MOLLY RILEY / AFP / MOLLY RILEY (Photo credit should read MOLLY RILEY/AFP/Getty Images)
BALTIMORE, MD - DECEMBER 16: Protesters hold signs in front of the Baltimore City City Circuit Courthouse East, while a jury continues deliberations in Baltimore police Officer William G. Porter's trial, December 16, 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland. The jury is in its third day of deliberations in Porter's trial, which is the first of six trials of police officers involved in the death of Freddie Gray. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
Protesters march along Calver Street in Baltimore, outside the courthouse after the announcement of a hung jury in the trial of Officer William Porter in the Freddy Gray case, on Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2015. (Barbara Haddock Taylor/Baltimore Sun/TNS via Getty Images)
Police stand outside the Baltimore City Circuit Courthouse after the hung-jury was announced in the trial of Police Officer William Porter, in Baltimore, Maryland on December 16, 2015. The manslaughter trial of a Baltimore policeman accused over the death in custody of African-American Freddie Gray was declared a mistrial after the jury failed to a reach a verdict, putting the city on edge. AFP PHOTO/ MOLLY RILEY / AFP / MOLLY RILEY (Photo credit should read MOLLY RILEY/AFP/Getty Images)
CORRECTS WORD MISDEMEANOR TO MANSLAUGHTER - Baltimore Police Department Commissioner Kevin Davis, left, urges calm as he speaks at a press conference alongside Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2015, in Baltimore, following a hung jury and mistrial in the manslaughter trial Officer William Porter, one of six Baltimore city police officers charged in connection to the death of Freddie Gray. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
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Williams said prosecutors had failed to prove their case. During a 25-reading of his decision, he said that Nero acted as a "similarly situated" officer would.

He said Nero's partner, Garrett Miller, had testified that Nero had not handcuffed Gray.

Gray's death a week after his arrest sparked a day of rioting in which nearly 400 buildings were damaged or destroyed in the majority black city of 620,000 people. The case helped stoke the Black Lives Matter movement and national debate over policing in minority communities.

Nero was among six officers charged in Gray's death and the second to go to trial. The trial of the first officer to be tried, William Porter, ended in a hung jury in December.

Nero's lawyers had argued that Gray's arrest was justified and that the officer had little to do with it. He never touched Gray except when he tried to help him find an asthma inhaler and helped lift him into the van once he was shackled, they said.

The hashtag #FreddieGray began trending on Twitter in the United States after news of Nero's acquittal and some black activists on Twitter expressed their disappointment.

See social reaction to the verdict:

8 PHOTOS
Social reactions to Freddie Gray verdict
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Baltimore police officer acquitted in Freddie Gray death
With yet another clearance of an officer in the death of #FreddieGray - the justice system completely fails us.
#FreddieGray should be alive today.
The #EdwardNero verdict in FreddieGray case is legal. And it isn't justice. Never confuse or conflate the two: Work to make them the same.
No justice, no peace. #BlackLivesMatter #FreddieGray
Nero was just found not guilty on all counts in the death of #FreddieGray. And this is why the work ain't even close to over.
Urge calm in my hometown of Baltimore… Just watched #FreddieGray family lawyer - I agree with him - no indicator of future trials...
Yet again, as America we yell "freedom," "equality" to compliment "values" and "justice" with our fingers crossed behind our back.
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"#FreddieGray should be alive today," wrote DeRay Mckesson, a key figure in the Black Lives Matter movement who unsuccessfully ran for mayor of Baltimore in April.

"With yet another clearance of an officer in the death of #FreddieGray - the justice system completely fails us," tweeted Shaun King, a columnist for the New York Daily News.

(Writing by Ian Simpson in Washington; Editing by Alan Crosby and Bill Trott)

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