DOJ won’t bring charges against officers in Gray case

Riots broke out in Baltimore, Maryland, on April 27, 2015, following the funeral of Freddie Gray. Gray, an 25-year-old man, died in police custody on April 19 following an April 12 arrest. Gray's family reached a $6.4 million settlement with the city, a source close to the family said Tuesady, September 8, 2015.

BALTIMORE (AP) — The U.S. Department of Justice won’t bring federal charges against six Baltimore police officers involved in the arrest and in-custody death of Freddie Gray, a young black man whose death touched off weeks of protests and unrest in the city.

The officers were charged by state prosecutors after Gray’s neck was broken in the back of a police transport wagon in April of 2015. The 25-year-old was handcuffed and shackled at the time, but he was unrestrained by a seat belt.

Three officers were acquitted at trial, and Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby later dropped the remaining state cases.

The Gray family’s attorney, Billy Murphy, said the Justice Department informed him on Tuesday that no federal charges would be filed. The decision means none of the officers will be held criminally responsible for Gray’s death.

Five officers face internal disciplinary hearings scheduled to begin Oct. 30. Those officers are Lt. Brian Rice, Sgt. Alicia White and officers Caesar Goodson, Edward Nero and Garrett Miller. The sixth officer, William Porter, was not charged administratively.

The Justice Department decision was first reported by The Baltimore Sun. The federal agency, along with the Baltimore Police Department, Mayor Catherine Pugh, State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby and the U.S. Attorney’s Office declined to comment on the decision.

Gray’s death triggered the firing of then-police commissioner Anthony Batts. It also prompted the Justice Department to open an investigation into allegations of discriminatory policing practices and unlawful arrests.

Last year, the Justice Department released a report detailing widespread patterns of abuse and misconduct within the Baltimore Police Department. The federal agency entered into a court-enforceable agreement in January to reform the troubled police department.

On Tuesday, attorneys representing the officers expressed relief that their clients will not be held criminally responsible for Gray’s death.

“These cases were never criminal and should never have been charged as such,” said Rice’s attorney, Michael Belsky.

Joe Murtha, who represents Porter, said he was relieved the department “determined that there wasn’t a basis to move forward with the civil rights action,” adding: “It’s a good decision.”

Baltimore’s homicide rate began to soar after Gray’s death in 2015, a year when the city saw 344 killings — which broke a 40-year record for homicides. Homicides and overdoses are now threatening new records in the city: There have been 245 homicides so far this year, compared to 214 at this time last year.

On Tuesday, local officials and experts gathered at the Maryland Senate to address Baltimore’s increasing violence. Sen. Nathaniel McFadden, a Baltimore Democrat, called on his colleagues to work together, saying “the whole state has a problem” when violence hits such high rates in Maryland’s largest city.

“It is everywhere. Help us. Help the engine that runs this state. Address the problem because this is not just Baltimore city. This is the state of Maryland,” McFadden said.

Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, announced plans last month for legislation to tighten sentencing for violent criminals to help quell the crime surge.