Baltimore Police Officer Not Guilty in Freddie Gray Death
By: Kes Paris, Xiro Xone News May 23, 2016 Updated: 2:23 PM
A judge found Baltimore police officer Edward Nero not guilty today on all four misdemeanor charges for his role in the events leading up to the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray.
Nero, 30, had been charged with second-degree assault, reckless endangerment and two counts of misconduct in office, all stemming from his actions during the stop and arrest of Gray, who suffered a catastrophic spinal injury while in police custody. Gray died one week later, on April 19, 2015, and his death sparked days of violent protests in Baltimore. Because Nero opted for a bench trial, Baltimore Circuit Court Judge Barry Williams decided his fate rather than a jury.
After the verdict, a Baltimore Police Department spokesman said Nero's status "in an administrative capacity" will not change.
Spokesperson T.J. Smith said the internal investigation of Nero's case is ongoing, and that it is "being handled by other police departments."
"The internal investigation will not be completed until all of the criminal cases against the other five officers are completed because they will likely be witnesses in each case," Smith said.
The city of Baltimore appeared relatively quiet post-verdict, with a just a handful of protesters speaking out. Montgomery Police said in a tweet that 60-65 members of its special events response team were headed to Baltimore to head off any riots.
The Baltimore police officers' union released a statement praising the verdict, adding that Nero's relief is tempered by the fact that five other officers await trial.
Nero's lawyer, Marc Zayon, responded to the verdict in a statement. "Nero, his wife and family are elated that this nightmare is finally over. The State’s Attorney for Baltimore City rushed to charge him, as well as the other five officers, completely disregarding the facts of the case and the applicable law," he said.
During the case, prosecutors argued that Nero had no regard for Gray’s safety and was reckless by ignoring policing rules when he failed to place a seat belt on Gray, who was placed on his stomach in shackles in the back of a police transport vehicle.
However, the court found it reasonable to believe that the driver of the police transport van is also responsible for belting in a passenger. That driver, Officer Caesar R. Goodson Jr., faces the most serious charges, including second-degree depraved-heart murder. Goodson has pleaded not guilty.
Gray died April 19, 2015, a week after his neck was broken in the back of a police transport van while he was handcuffed and shackled but left unrestrained by a seat belt.
His death set off more than a week of protests followed by looting, rioting and arson that prompted a citywide curfew. His name became a rallying cry in the growing national conversation about the treatment of black men by police officers.
Shortly after Gray's death, State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby charged six officers. Three of them are black; Nero and two others are white.