Baltimore’s top prosecutor has announced criminal charges against all six police officers suspended after a black man suffered a fatal spinal injury in police custody, saying “no one is above the law”.
Freddie Gray’s arrest was illegal and his treatment in custody amounted to murder and manslaughter, Maryland’s state attorney Marilyn Mosby said.
The announcement came after nearly two weeks of growing anger over Mr Gray’s death, and only hours after Ms Mosby received the results of a police investigation. “Mr Gray’s death was a homicide,” she declared.
Ms Mosby announced the stiffest charge – second-degree “depraved heart” murder – against the driver of the police van. Other officers face charges of involuntary manslaughter, assault and illegal arrest.
She said the knife officers accused Mr Gray of illegally carrying clipped inside his trouser pocket was in fact a legal knife, and there was no justification for his arrest.
Ms Mosby said she comes from five generations of police officers and that the charges against these six officers should in no way damage the relationship between police and prosecutors in Baltimore.
Her announcement came as the city braced itself for two more waves of protests on Friday and Saturday focused on the case.
Crowds had gathered in Philadelphia and Baltimore, where a curfew went into effect for the third night.
Other protests led to arrests in New York and elsewhere.
Baltimore Police Commissioner Anthony Batts refused to answer any questions on T hursday
He said his department’s report was delivered a day ahead of time to State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby, and that from now on, any questions should go to her.
Ms Mosby also declined to talk, asking “for the public to remain patient and peaceful and to trust the process of the justice system”.
Beyond the slim chronology, authorities have refused to discuss evidence, such as the details of his handling to statements from any of the six suspended officers.
With rumours flying about how 25-year-old Mr Gray’s spine was “80 per cent severed,” as his family’s lawyer Billy Murphy put it, police did release a new piece of information.
But it served mostly to raise more questions about how truthful the six suspended officers have been with investigators.
Deputy Commissioner Kevin Davis said investigators discovered a security camera recording showing the police van carrying Mr Gray had made a previously undisclosed, second stop, after the he was put in leg irons and before the van driver made a third stop and called for help to check on his condition.
The van then made a fourth stop, to pick up another passenger, before Mr Gray arrived at the police station with the fatal spinal-cord injury that left him unresponsive.
Police had said Mr Gray was obviously injured and asking for medical help when he was hoisted into the van on April 12, and unresponsive on arrival at the station. He died in a hospital after a week in a coma.
Then, last week, Mr Batts said the additional passenger who was picked up along the way had told investigators the driver did not speed, make sudden stops or “drive erratically” during the trip, and that Mr Gray was “was still moving around, that he was kicking and making noises” up until the van arrived at the police station.
Legal experts and the Gray family lawyers say secrecy is appropriate at this point in the probe, when it is still possible that some witnesses have not been questioned, or even found.