Several arrested after curfew in Baltimore; many cheer charges against six officers

Six Baltimore police officers face criminal charges in Freddie Gray's death

After a brief flurry of arrests at the beginning of the 10 p.m. curfew, the streets surrounding Baltimore’s City Hall emptied quickly save for a large crowd of police, National Guardsmen and media members.

Police arrested several protesters near City Hall after a small group sitting on a lawn refused to leave.

Officers worked from two sides to disperse the crowd of about 50 people. Some demonstrators ran away, other were taken into custody.

By 10:30, the protesters had been cleared out. All that remained near City Hall were more than 100 police officers and Guardsmen.

The arrests followed an evening of celebration over the charging of six police officers in connection with the death of Freddie Gray.

Protesters joined in chants -- “Peaceful! Positive! Powerful!" -- and held up signs calling for an end to police brutality and the citywide curfew, which has been in effect nightly since Monday's rioting.

Some chanted, "Hey, hey! Ho, ho! This curfew has got to go!"

Imani Hill, 41, brought her two young daughters to witness a bit of local history.

She said she was proud of Baltimore State’s Atty. Marilyn Mosby, who announced the charges Friday against the six officers, and felt gratified that the city had begun to turn away from rage.

“I just want them to be aware,” she said.

Brandon Cole, 25, who lives in West Baltimore, joined the march still wearing his vest from his job at an Amazon warehouse.

“I feel it's good, a good thing, but it's just the beginning, ” he said of the charges.

The demonstration began earlier Friday as hundreds chanted, “All night, all day, justice for Freddie Gray!”

The protesters made their way through West Baltimore, greeted by honking cars as helicopters hovered overhead.

The demonstrators reached City Hall by nightfall.

The six Baltimore police officers charged in Gray's death surrendered Friday to face criminal counts including second-degree murder and manslaughter.

Bail for each was set at between $250,000 and $350,000. All the officers posted bond and were released. 

Mosby said Friday that Gray’s death had been officially ruled a homicide and that the investigation by city police and her office had found probable cause to charge all six officers.

“No one is above the law,” said Mosby, standing on the marble steps of Baltimore’s War Memorial Building. As she announced the indictments, some in the crowd jubilantly shouted their approval. By late afternoon demonstrators had begun to gather near Baltimore City Hall, hours before curfew.

Mosby detailed how Gray fled police, was chased and arrested, then transported in a police van that stopped four times. Gray was not secured with a seat belt during the trip and was repeatedly refused medical care, she said.

“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 said.

The most serious charge, second-degree “depraved heart” murder, was lodged against the driver of the van, Officer Caesar R. Goodson Jr. In Maryland, “depraved heart” murder is less serious than a first-degree intentional killing, but one that involves a special degree of reckless indifference. It carries a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison.

 The initial arrest lacked probable cause, Mosby said. The knife that was hidden in Gray’s clothes was not a switchblade, as first reported, and was legal under Maryland law.

The other five officers -- Officer Garrett E. Miller, Officer William G. Porter, Officer Edward M. Nero, Lt. Brian W. Rice and Sgt. Alicia D. White -- face charges ranging from involuntary manslaughter to assault to misconduct. The more serious charges carry penalties of up to 10 years in prison.

Gray’s death put Baltimore at the center of protests over relations between blacks and police, a sometimes-fierce debate that has stretched from the streets of the nation’s cities including Ferguson, Mo., and New York to the White House. Hundreds of demonstrators have been arrested in Baltimore and elsewhere in recent days.

Gray's family and their attorney said Friday afternoon that they were shocked by Mosby's decision, but it was a "good shock."

Richard Shipley, Gray's stepfather, said the charges were an "important step in getting justice for Freddie" and called for peace. 

"We ask that whoever comes to our city, a city that we love, a city that we live in, come in peace," Shipley said. "If you are not coming in peace, please don't come at all because this city needs to get back to work." 

The last thing his son would want, Shipley said, would be for the "hardworking people of Baltimore to lose their jobs and businesses because of his death."

"That would totally defeat purpose. … Without justice there is no peace, but let us have peace in the pursuit of justice."

Many Baltimore defense lawyers were surprised at the speed with which Mosby brought charges, a day after officially receiving the report of the city Police Department. But they were divided in their assessment of how strong a case she appeared to have.

“It’s pretty disconcerting what she is doing, bringing charges after having the case just one day,” said former federal prosecutor Steven H. Levin.

Levin said defense lawyers were likely to seek a change of venue, which could dramatically alter the racial makeup of the jury pool, a serious factor in a case full of racial tension. Juries in Baltimore are likely to be at least half African American, while in the suburbs they are predominantly white.

“The first thing I would do is file a change of venue,” Levin said. “You are asking potential jurors to try and disregard what they have read and heard about this case, which is a very difficult task.”

But Arnold M. Weiner, a storied Baltimore defense lawyer with many high-profile acquittals to his name, said the charges looked to have been carefully prepared.

“Obviously she has been gathering information as this investigation continued,” Weiner said. “The charges very carefully distinguish among the participants, and she laid out the real scale of culpability here.”

He said a change of venue was “unlikely. This is one of those instances where the whole country is aware of what took place.”

“The jury pool is likely to be upset about two things,” said a Baltimore attorney who represents police and asked not be quoted because he may be involved in the defense. “Half the jury pool is going to be concerned about this young African American who gets killed on the street by the police. The other half will be very upset that people have been looting stores and burning buildings in Baltimore. This will be a hard case to prove once things calm down.”

After Mosby’s announcement, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake pledged to “continue to be relentless in changing the culture of the Police Department.”

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

“There will be justice for Mr. Gray. Justice must apply to all of us equally.”

The Baltimore Fraternal Order of Police announced that the union would stand by the officers. “Our organization has supported these officers and will continue to do so,” said Lt. Kenneth Butler, speaking at a union news conference.

Baltimore police officers are unhappy with the charges, which union lawyer Michael E. Davey called a rush to judgment.

“No officer injured Mr. Gray. No officer hurt Mr. Gray,” Davey said. “Our intention is to try this case in the courtroom and not the media. We believe these officers will be vindicated since they did nothing wrong.”

“I can tell you they are not happy,” union President Gene Ryan said, saying police were “appalled” by the charges. “This decision to charge officers is going to make our job harder.”

At the White House, President Obama told reporters that he had not reviewed the charges against the Baltimore police but said it was “absolutely vital that the truth comes out” about how Gray died.

“Justice needs to be served,” Obama said after a meeting with persecuted foreign journalists to mark World Press Freedom Day.

Obama several days ago condemned what he called criminal activity in Baltimore‎ during the Monday rioting. The president also said that he was gratified to see “constructive, thoughtful” protests overtaking the violence, which peaked on Monday.

The U.S. Department of Justice is also investigating the death for possible civil rights violations. Cheering broke out in Baltimore, especially in West Baltimore, where Gray had lived and was arrested, when the charges were announced.

“I come here to thank God,” said U.S. Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.), a longtime voice for civil rights. He spoke surrounded by leaders of the African American community and clergy.

“The process has started, that’s the main thing,” Cummings said. “So many people in the neighborhoods have never seen a victory. They had come to believe the system had not worked, that the system worked against them. It’s a new day in our city.”

During her announcement, Mosby spoke directly to the protesters who have marched in Baltimore and around the nation.

“I heard your call for no justice, no peace,” Mosby said, “but your peace is sincerely needed as I work to bring justice for Freddie Gray.”

Times staff writer Sarah Parvini in Los Angeles contributed to this report. 

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times

UPDATES

8:20 p.m.: This report has been updated to indicate the street scene had quieted. 

7:37 p.m.: This report has been updated with information since the 10 p.m. curfew took effect. 

6:27 p.m.: This article was updated with information about Friday evening's demonstrations in Baltimore.

2:49 p.m.: This article has been updated to include comments from Freddie Gray's family.

1:33 p.m.: This article has been updated to say six officers have surrendered.

12:13 p.m.: This article has been updated with information about the officers' surrender.

11:08 a.m. This article has been updated throughout with additional information.

8:35 a.m.: This article has been updated with additional information from the news conference by Mosby.

8:20 a.m.: This article has been updated with new information from Baltimore State’s Atty. Marilyn Mosby.

This article was originally published at 7:57 a.m.

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