We have become used to adding names to the list of slain Black brethren and mostly expect our cries for reform and justice to be ignored. We do not expect indictments for murders. We just hope to make enough noise so that someone, somewhere, hears our cries. So when our calls for justice are actually answered, it is unsurprising that we react with awe.
State’s Attorney for Baltimore City, Marilyn Mosby, has announced Freddie Gray’s death as a homicide and that she is filing criminal charges against the six officers involved. Mosby’s investigation revealed that the officers “illegally arrested” Gray on April 12, 2015. The pocketknife found on him was classified as “lawful under Maryland law.” In the police van, Gray’s ankles were shackled. His wrists were handcuffed behind his back and he was placed in the back of the van, unrestrained, and on his stomach. The van stopped over and over. Freddie Gray requested medical assistance over and over. He was ignored. When the van arrived at the police station, Gray was unresponsive and in “cardiac arrest.” He died a week later.
The charges against the officers are as follows:
Officer Caesar R. Goodson Jr. was the driver of the police van; he never restrained Gray nor sought medical attention despite Gray’s pleas for it. There is also suspicion that as the driver, Goodson purposefully engaged in a practice called “rough ride,” which is meant to injure suspects in custody by driving the vehicle in a purposefully rough way. Goodson is charged with second-degree depraved heart murder, meaning he is charged with a reckless disregard for the life of another. He is also charged with involuntary manslaughter, second-degree assault, gross negligent manslaughter by vehicle, criminal negligent manslaughter and misconduct in office.
Officer William G. Porter assisted Gray into the van, but he did not restrain him and he did not get Gray medical attention. Porter is charged with involuntary manslaughter, second-degree assault and misconduct in office.
Officer Edward M. Nero is one of the three officers who pursued Gray and one of the two officers who handcuffed him and placed him in a prone position. He is also one of the officers that discovered the knife. Nero physically held Gray down against his will until the police van arrived and then along with other officers loaded Gray into the van without restraining him. He placed handcuffs on Gray’s wrists and shackles on his ankles, all without putting on his seatbelt. Nero is charged with two counts of second-degree assault, two counts of misconduct in office, and false imprisonment.
Officer Garrett E. Miller is also one of the three who pursued Gray and one of the two officers who handcuffed him and then also loaded him into the van without restraining him. Miller is charged with two counts of second-degree assault, two counts of misconduct in office and false imprisonment.
Sergeant Alicia D. White is one of the three officers who later found Gray unresponsive on the floor of the wagon. Despite being advised that Gray needed a medic, Mosby said, “she made no effort to look or assess or determine his condition,” leading to a further deterioration of his already precarious health. White is charged with involuntary manslaughter, second-degree assault and misconduct in office.
Lieutenant Brian W. Rice is also one of the three officers who pursued Gray and then also aided in loading Gray into the police van, handcuffed and shackled, without restraints. Rice is charged with involuntary manslaughter, two counts of second-degree assault, two counts of misconduct in office, and false imprisonment.
Marilyn Mosby is a relative unknown in the political sphere. She has held the office of States Attorney for Baltimore City for only four months, but already she has brought about refreshing and much needed change. In October, Mosby gave a speech where she acknowledged “It’s been 78 days since Michael Brown was shot in the street by a police officer, it’s been 101 days since Eric Garner was choked to death in New York by a police officer, and 54 days since the New York City medical examiner ruled that incident a homicide. Neither has resulted in an indictment.” When she campaigned for office last fall, she promised to be more aggressive on police misconduct, and after today, it is clear that she intends to keep that promise.
Leveling these charges against the six officers who arrested Freddie Gray without probable cause, ignoring his cries for medical attention, and eventually murdering him, is only the first step on a long road to criminal justice reform and to dismantling the institutions that kill Black people, and people of color, with impunity.
But it is a much-needed first step, an inspiring one at that. Baltimore rose up, protested, and decried the injustice of the system. Baltimore, and its allies around the country, refused to allow another senseless death in the community go without consequence. And now we are seeing the fruits of the blood, sweat, and tears of generations of protesting police brutality. We are seeing hope and light where before there was only violence and oppression. The movement has been shaking the bars of the system, crying “No justice, no peace.” Our hope is that it is not too soon to begin chanting, “know justice, know peace.”