Baltimore prosecutor drops police charges in Freddie Gray case

Charges dropped against officers in Freddie Gray case

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Baltimore's top prosecutor on Wednesday 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.

Prosecutor Marilyn Mosby had stunned the city and became a national figure by filing charges against six officers just days after Gray's death from a broken neck suffered in a police van sparked protests and rioting in April 2015.

The death of the 25-year-old was among high-profile deaths of black suspects at the hands of U.S. police that stoked a national debate on police tactics and the treatment of minorities. It fueled the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement, which protests excessive police use of force against minorities.

The decision to drop charges against the three remaining officers facing trial came on the day of a pretrial hearing for Officer Garrett Miller. His trial was to start on Thursday in Baltimore City Circuit Court.

RELATED: Officers who were charged in death of Freddie Gray

34 PHOTOS
Freddie Gray case -- Funeral, protests and officers reportedly involved
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Freddie Gray case -- Funeral, protests and officers reportedly involved
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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At a news conference held before a mural in Gray's neighborhood memorializing him, a combative Mosby said that individual police officers had tried to thwart her investigation.

The interference included officers who were witnesses investigating the case and key questions not being asked during interrogations. A police counter-investigation aimed at disproving the prosecution's case also failed to execute search warrants, Mosby said.

"Police investigating police, whether they are friends or merely their colleagues, was problematic," she said to cries of "we're with you" from onlookers.

Successful prosecution was impossible without an independent investigation, a say in whether the cases would be heard before a judge or jury, community oversight of police and major justice reforms, she said.

A Baltimore police spokeswoman had no immediate comment. The officers still face administrative reviews over Gray's death.

Read reactions to the decision:

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Social reactions to Freddie Gray charges dropped
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Social reactions to Freddie Gray charges dropped
So #FreddieGray's death was ruled a homicide but no one is responsible for his murder? https://t.co/hI0EZO2ecz
OK, let me understand this: #FreddieGray was riding a bike, had has back broken by cops, died. And no justice at all?? In what universe?
I'm confused... If the cops aren't responsible for #FreddieGray's death, why did the city of Baltimore agree to pay his family $6.4M?
The police get away wit murder. #freddiegray
Even if you keep your hands up, even if you're not carrying a weapon, even if you're already in jail, handcuffed, 12 yrs old... #FreddieGray
All charges dropped in #freddiegray case - time to drop DA marilyn mosby
So #FreddieGray had his spine severed and no one is at fault? And this is called justice? No. It's JUST US!
HIS DEATH WAS RULED A HOMICIDE BUT NO CHARGES DISGRACE HORRIBLE #FreddieGray
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FOUR ATTEMPTS TO CONVICT

Gene Ryan, the head of the Baltimore police union, welcomed the decision to drop charges but called Mosby's allegations of police interference "outrageous."

"The state's attorney simply could not accept the evidence that was presented," he said at a news conference, flanked by the accused officers and their lawyers.

Prosecutors last week failed in their fourth attempt to secure a conviction against a police officer. Judge Barry Williams acquitted three officers in bench trials, and the trial of a fourth officer ended in a deadlocked jury.

Reacting to the decision, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump said Mosby had made a bad call in prosecuting the officers.

"It was disgraceful what she did and the way she did it," he told reporters in Florida.

Gray was arrested when he fled officers unprovoked in a high-crime area. Officers bundled him into a police wagon shackled and not secured by a seat belt.

Prosecutors alleged that officers gave Gray a "rough ride," and failed to secure him as outlined in department protocol or to seek medical assistance.

But defense lawyers said that officers had the discretion on whether to seatbelt detainees and it was unclear when Gray suffered his fatal neck injury.

The Gray case represented one of the first high-profile cases in which a prosecutor chose to go after officers involved in a black suspect's death. Grand juries had declined to charge officers involved in the shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and in the choking death of Eric Garner, 43, in New York.

Federal prosecutors have launched a civil rights investigation into the shooting of a black man by police in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Minnesota officials began a probe into a fatal shooting of a black motorist outside St. Paul. Both killings occurred this month and set off fresh protests.

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