BALTIMORE – The six Baltimore police officers involved in the arrest of Freddie Gray were charged with crimes ranging from murder to manslaughter to assault, Baltimore State Attorney Marilyn Mosby announced Friday – a significant new development in a case that has provoked days of widespread protests in the highly segregated city.
Gray, a 25-year-old black man, died April 19 following a severe spinal cord injury suffered while in police custody. He was arrested on April 12, apparently for possession of a switchblade. Mosby, at a press conference, said the knife was not a switchblade and was legal under Maryland law, making Gray’s arrest illegal.
“No crime was committed by Freddie Gray,” Mosby said to cheers, adding that the investigation is ongoing. In the aftermath of Mosby’s presser, far more jubilant crowds gathered in the city, some chanted “convict all six.”
Office Caesar Goodson, who drove the police van that carried Gray to a local precinct, faces the most severe charge, second-degree depraved heart murder, which carries a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison. Other charges include manslaughter and second-degree assault. A full list of the officers’ names and charges is below.
“I was sickened and heartbroken by the statement of charges we heard today,” Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said in a brief but impassioned statement, ”because no one in our city is above the law. Justice must apply to all of us equally.”
“There will be justice,” the mayor added. All six of the indicted officers were taken into custody Friday and NBC News has confirmed that all of them were bonded out less than 24 hours later.
Rawlings-Blake said that most officers on the city’s police force serve with “courage and distinction.” But, she added, “to those of you who wish to engage in brutality, misconduct, racism and corruption, let me be clear, there is no place in the Baltimore Police Department for you.”
Gray’s stepfather, Richard Shipley, said the family was satisfied with the charges and pleaded for peace in the city.
“If you are not coming in peace, please do not come at all,” Shipley said in a series of brief but emotional remarks in a press conference Friday. “Because this city needs to get back to work. The last thing that Freddie woulkd want is for the hard working people of Baltimore to lose their jobs and businesses because of his death.”
“Where bad policeman fear committing misconduct because good policeman no longer fear preventing, correcting, reporting it … the blue wall of silence which makes policeman wrongfully conspire to conceal evil, must come down,” Gray family attorney Billy Murphy added.
As a citywide 10 p.m. curfew that went into affect earlier this week began on Friday there were some confrontations between police and protesters that led to a few arrests. The curfew has been met with some resistance among the crowds on the street all week.
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Baltimore has been gripped by unrest over Gray’s mysterious death. Riots and looting broke out Monday night hours after Gray’s funeral. In response, the city was placed under a state of emergency and the National Guard was deployed into the streets. A citywide curfew has been in effect since Tuesday. Police say they are expecting large demonstrations this weekend.
At the White House, President Obama told reporters that “justice needs to be served” in the Gray case.
“All the evidence needs to be presented,” Obama said. “Those individuals who are charged, obviously, are also entitled to due process and rule of law. And so I want to make sure that our legal system runs the way it should.”
He added, “I think what the people of Baltimore want more than anything else is the truth.”
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan also weighed in on the indictments, saying “I believe in the criminal justice system, and we will see this process play out over the coming months.” The Republican urged Baltimore residents to keep demonstrations peaceful and thanked law enforcement and firefighters for “their tireless efforts in protecting our citizens.”
Democratic Maryland Sen. Barbara Mikulski said in a statement that “every individual deserves due process under the law,” including both Freddie Gray, his family, and the officers charged Friday. “I encourage calm and peace in our great city as the legal process proceeds,” she added.
Mosby, at 35 the youngest chief prosecutor of any major American city, drew widespread praise for her leadership and forceful action in the case. Her name was the top trending item on Twitter Friday afternoon. She spoke passionately about the case Friday, recounting her recent meeting with the Gray family. “I assured his family that no one is above the law, and I would pursue justice on their behalf,” she said, noting her family’s ties to law enforcement.
But the Fraternal Order of Police, the union representing the accused officers, called for a special prosecutor in the case, citing what they consider to be conflicts of interest in the case. Among other things, Mosby is married to Baltimore City Councilman Nick Mosby, who has spoken out about the riots that Gray’s death has prompted.
“It is clear that your husband’s political future will be directly impacted, for better or worse, by the outcome of your investigation,” Ryan wrote. “In order to avoid any appearance of impropriety or a violation of the Professional Rules of Professional Responsibilty, I ask that you appoint a Special Prosecutor to determine whether or not any charges should be filed.”
The U.S Justice Department, led by new Attorney General Loretta Lynch, is conducting a parallel investigation into Gray’s death.
The incident came on the heels of a string of police-involved deaths of black males across the U.S. that have garnered widespread criticism of American law enforcement. After Michael Brown’s death in Ferguson, Missouri, last summer, the DOJ – under former Attorney General Eric Holder – released a scathing report exposing pervasive racial disparities within the Ferguson Police Department.
“This is a great day, and I think we need to realize that,” Rep. Elijah Cummings, a Maryland Democrat who represents part of Baltimore, said Friday.
“A message has been sent by our state’s attorney that she values every life, that she treasures every person,” he added. “Let the wheels of justice begin to roll.”
Rachel Kleinman contributed reporting.