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Baltimore Police Officers Won't Face Federal Charges Over Death Of Freddie Gray

A decision by the Justice Department means six officers won't face charges in the 2015 death of the 25-year-old man, which prompted days of unrest and rioting.

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Federal charges will not be filed against the officers involved in the arrest and death of Freddie Gray in Baltimore in 2015, the Department of Justice announced Tuesday, stating it found insufficient evidence to support criminal civil rights charges against the officers.

The decision by the Department of Justice will mean no convictions for the six Baltimore police officers involved in Gray's arrest and subsequent death in April 2015, which sparked violent protests and riots in the city.

"Although Gray's death is undeniably tragic, the evidence in this case is insufficient to meet these substantial evidentiary requirements," a statement from the Justice Department read, concluding that a case against the Baltimore officers "is not a prosecutable violation of the federal rights statutes."

The attorney for the Gray family, Billy Murphy, told the Associated Press he was informed of the decision Tuesday.

Murphy did not immediately respond to BuzzFeed News' request for comment. A secretary at his firm said he was expected to make an announcement later on Tuesday, but no time had been set.

Six officers faced criminal charges after Gray, who was arrested for allegedly possessing a switchblade, was found in a police van with a broken neck and a compressed spinal cord.

The officers faced charges that included reckless endangerment, involuntary manslaughter, and second-degree depraved heart murder.

Gray died a week later.

The 25-year-old had been handcuffed and shackled in the back of the van, but he was not restrained by a seat belt, prompting accusations that the officers had not just been reckless, but intentionally rough.

But after a contentious trial, Lt. Brian Rice, Officer Edward Nero, and Officer Caesar Goodson Jr. were acquitted of charges. Officer William Porter was expected to face another trial when the first one ended in a mistrial.

Then in July 2016, Baltimore City State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby decided to drop the charges against the remaining officers "in light of the dismal likelihood of convictions."

Uncredited / AP

The six police officers involved in the arrest and death Freddie Gray. Top row from left: Caesar R. Goodson Jr., Garrett E. Miller, and Edward M. Nero. Bottom row from left: William G. Porter, Brian W. Rice, and Alicia D. White.

That decision forced community activists and critics of the police department to look to the DOJ to possibly file charges. But under Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the DOJ has pulled back from investigating police departments for suspected civil rights violations.

Sessions attempted to delay a court hearing on a reform settlement with the Baltimore Police Department in March, which the Obama administration had launched after Gray's death. Sessions also released a corresponding memo that stated federal officials would reconsider investigations of local police departments, effectively putting that work on hold.

That memo has also frozen some assistance for cities that had asked the DOJ for investigative assistance after their officers were involved in shooting civilians.

"The misdeeds of bad actors should not impugn or undermine the legitimate and honorable work that law enforcement officers and agencies perform in keeping American communities safe," Sessions wrote in the memo.

In a statement, the Department of Justice stated it had looked at all the evidence in the case and had looked at different possibilities of liability, including the possibility of false arrest, excessive force, and deliberate indifference to the risk of serious harm.

Yet according to the DOJ, there was not enough evidence to be able to obtain a conviction in the case.

"The government must also prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the officer acted willfully," the statement read. "It is not enough to show that the officer made a mistake, acted negligently, acted by accident, or even exercised bad judgment."

All six officers are expected to face disciplinary trials in their department later this year.

"We know that spines do not break without cause," the NAACP's Legal Defense Fund President Sherrilyn Ifill said in a statement. "The onus is now on the BPD to hold these officers accountable at their disciplinary trials this fall and winter. Baltimore will be watching."


Salvador Hernandez is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Los Angeles.

Contact Salvador Hernandez at salvador.hernandez@buzzfeed.com.

Dominic Holden is a political reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.

Contact Dominic Holden at dominic.holden@buzzfeed.com.

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