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

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Baltimore, Officers charged in death of Freddie Gray
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Baltimore, Officers charged in death of Freddie Gray
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)
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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
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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