Rage to relief in Baltimore as 6 officers charged in death

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
TOPSHOT - A man walks past a mural with a portrait of Freddie Gray at North Mount and Presbury streets in the Sandtown neighborhood of west Baltimore on August 8, 2017. Baltimore, a city of 2.8 million, is troubled by drug use, poverty and racial segregation problems. In 2016 violent crime in Baltimore was up 22 percent and murders up 78 percent, according to Attorney General Jeff Sessions. / AFP PHOTO / MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
Baltimore Police Officer Caesar R. Goodson Jr., Officer Edward M. Nero, Officer Garrett E Miller (top L-R), Officer William G. Porter, Lt. Brian W. Rice, Sgt. Alicia D. White (bottom L-R), are pictured in these undated booking photos provided by the Baltimore Police Department. Baltimore's top prosecutor on July 27, 2016 dropped remaining charges against police officers tied to the death of black detainee Freddie Gray, after failing four times to secure convictions in a case that inflamed the U.S. debate on race and justice. Courtesy Baltimore Police Department/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. EDITORIAL USE ONLY
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)
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)
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)
People arrive at Freddie Gray's funeral at New Shiloh Baptist Church in Baltimore April 27, 2015. Mourners lined up on Monday before the funeral of Freddie Gray, a Baltimore black man who died in police custody, a death that has led to protests in the latest outcry over U.S. law enforcement's treatment of minorities. Police say he died of a neck injury on April 19 after being arrested on April 12. REUTERS/Sait Serkan Gurbuz
Freddie Gray's casket arrives at New Shiloh Baptist Church in Baltimore April 27, 2015. Mourners lined up on Monday before the funeral of Freddie Gray, a Baltimore black man who died in police custody, a death that has led to protests in the latest outcry over U.S. law enforcement's treatment of minorities. Police say he died of a neck injury on April 19 after being arrested on April 12. REUTERS/Sait Serkan Gurbuz
A woman cries as demonstrators throw rocks at Baltimore police during clashes in Baltimore, Maryland April 27, 2015. Seven Baltimore police officers were injured on Monday as rioters threw bricks and stones and burned patrol cars in violent protests after the funeral of Freddie Gray, a black man who died in police custody. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton
A member of the family reacts during Freddie Gray's funeral service at New Shiloh Baptist Church in Baltimore April 27, 2015. Mourners lined up on Monday before the funeral of Freddie Gray, a Baltimore black man who died in police custody, a death that has led to protests in the latest outcry over U.S. law enforcement's treatment of minorities. Police say he died of a neck injury on April 19 after being arrested on April 12. REUTERS/Sait Serkan Gurbuz
A woman with goods looted from a store runs past burning vehicles during clashes in Baltimore, Maryland April 27, 2015. Seven Baltimore police officers were injured on Monday as rioters threw bricks and stones and burned patrol cars in violent protests after the funeral of Freddie Gray, a black man who died in police custody. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton
A Baltimore firefighter attacks a fire at a convenience store and residence during clashes after the funeral of Freddie Gray in Baltimore, Maryland in the early morning hours of April 28, 2015. Baltimore erupted in violence as hundreds of rioters looted stores, burned buildings and injured at least 15 police officers following the funeral of Gray, a 25-year-old black man who died after he was injured in police custody. REUTERS/Eric Thayer TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Reverend Jesse Jackson speaks to the members of national media near the CVS Pharmacy building on Pennsylvania Avenue in Baltimore April 28, 2015. Hundreds of rioters looted businesses and set buildings on fire, including the pharmacy, in Baltimore on Monday in widespread violence that injured at least 15 police officers following the funeral of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black man who died after he was injured in police custody. REUTERS/Sait Serkan Gurbuz
Baltimore City State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby (C) leaves the courthouse after the first day of pretrial motions for six police officers charged in connection with the death of Freddie Gray in Baltimore, Maryland, U.S. on September 2, 2015. Baltimore's top prosecutor on July 27, 2016 dropped remaining charges against police officers tied to the death of black detainee Freddie Gray, after failing four times to secure convictions in a case that inflamed the U.S. debate on race and justice. REUTERS/Bryan Woolston/File Photo
Demonstrators protest outside of the Baltimore Police Department's Western District police station during a rally for Freddie Gray, in Baltimore, April 21, 2015. Hundreds of demonstrators gathered in Baltimore on Tuesday to protest the death of the 27-year-old black man who died after being arrested by local police. The U.S. Justice Department is looking into the case of Gray, who was arrested on April 12 and died a week later in a hospital after slipping into a coma, a spokeswoman said. A preliminary autopsy showed Gray died from a spinal injury. REUTERS/Jose Luis Magana
Baltimore mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake speaks as U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) looks on during a news conference on the demonstrations for Freddie Gray, who died following an arrest by the Baltimore police department, in Baltimore, Maryland April 26, 2015. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton
A demonstrator looks up after being sprayed with pepper spray during clashes in Baltimore, Maryland April 27, 2015. Several Baltimore police officers were injured on Monday in violent clashes with young people after the funeral of a black man, Freddie Gray, who died in police custody, and local law enforcement warned of a threat by gangs. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
BALTIMORE, MD - APRIL 28: National Guard soldiers stand guard in downtown Baltimore outside the Harborplace mall as a bicycle rider goes by. (Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
BALTIMORE, MD - APRIL 22: People chant and shout as they march through the streets of Baltimore for Freddie Gray, a Baltimore man who died a week after suffering a spinal-cord injury while in police custody, near the site of Gray's arrest close to the corner of Presbury Street and North Mount Street in Baltimore, MD on Wednesday April 22, 2015. (Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
BALTIMORE, MD - APRIL 22: People chant and shout as they lay down to stop traffic during their march through the streets of Baltimore for Freddie Gray, a Baltimore man who died a week after suffering a spinal-cord injury while in police custody, near the site of Gray's arrest close to the corner of Presbury Street and North Mount Street in Baltimore, MD on Wednesday April 22, 2015. (Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
BALTIMORE, USA - APRIL 22: A kid raises his hand while hundreds of people march through the streets of Baltimore to seek justice for the death for Freddie Gray who died from injuries suffered in Police custody in Baltimore, USA on April 22, 2015. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
BALTIMORE, USA - APRIL 23: Protestors and police clash as hundreds of people march through the streets of Baltimore to seek justice for the death for Freddie Gray who died from injuries suffered in Police custody in Baltimore, USA on April 23, 2015. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/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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