Freddie Gray, 25, was fatally injured in April 2015 while in the custody of the Baltimore Police Department. Although the young man’s death resulted in a $2.8 million civil settlement, jurors are having a hard time deciding whether six officers, who were charged with involvement in Gray’s death, are in fact guilty.
On Wednesday evening, jurors announced they were unable to reach a unanimous decision as to the innocence or guilt of Officer William Porter. As a result, Judge Barry Williams declared a mistrial.
According to the officers’ Statement of Charges, Freddie Gray was walking through his Baltimore, Maryland, neighborhood when he was identified by local authorities as suspicious. According to reports, the young man made eye contact with the officers, then proceeded to flee the scene without provocation.
In their official report, the officers said they chased and captured the suspect without further incident. However, during a subsequent search, they reportedly recovered an illegal “spring-assisted” knife, which was “clipped to the inside of his front right pants pocket.”
Following his arrest, Gray was handcuffed and placed in the back of a police van for transport to the Western District Police Station. Although the circumstances remain a topic of heated debate, the young man was fatally injured while riding in the back of the van.
Although Freddie was not immediately killed, he remained in critical condition and eventually fell into a coma. The 25-year-old man was declared dead on April 19.
Assistant Medical Examiner Carol H. Allan later determined the cause of death was a “high-energy injury” to the neck and spine. As reported by the Baltimore Sun, the manner of death was determined to be homicide.
Judge declares mistrial in case of officer charged in Freddie Gray’s death https://t.co/RjmSfJnM70 pic.twitter.com/SswjYDcE8l
— Al Jazeera America (@ajam) December 16, 2015
It is unclear exactly how Gray was injured. However, the medical examiner believes he “was injured during operation of the vehicle.” NPR reports the officers failed to fasten Freddie’s seatbelt. They also made a total of five stops prior to arriving at the Western District Police Station. The officers are further accused of failing to respond to the young man’s pleas for help.
— The Guardian (@guardian) December 16, 2015
The unusual circumstances surrounding the death of Freddie Gray sparked numerous protests throughout the city of Baltimore. As reported by the Washington Post, the protests turned violent one week after the young man’s death.
During the riot, protesters started fires, looted local businesses, and destroyed structures. As a result, more than 100 officers were injured and nearly 500 protesters were arrested for disturbing the peace.
Amid the investigation into Freddie’s death, six officers were identified for their possible involvement and placed on suspension. Those officers include Caesar Goodson Jr., Garrett Miller, Edward Nero, William Porter, Brian Rice, and Alicia White.
The six officers were later indicted on numerous criminal charges, including assault, involuntary manslaughter, and second-degree murder with a depraved heart.
William Porter, who is the first of the six officers to stand trial, was responsible for checking Gray’s welfare while he rode inside the back of the van. It was also his responsibility to make sure the suspect was wearing a seatbelt.
As a result of his alleged negligence, he was charged with misconduct in officer, second-degree assault, reckless endangerment, and involuntary manslaughter. As reported by CNN, he was facing between 10 and 25 years in prison if convicted.
Although they spent three days deliberating the case, the jury was unable to reach a unanimous decision on any of the three charges. Therefore, Judge Barry Williams was forced to declare a mistrial.
NBC News reports prosecutors believed their case against Porter was “the strongest” of the six.
Although a mistrial was declared, it does not mean William Porter is off the hook. However, prosecutors will essentially be tasked with starting over from the beginning.