The U.S. Department of Justice will not bring charges against Baltimore police officers in connection with the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray from injuries sustained in police custody in 2015, the agency confirmed Tuesday.
The department issued a statement Tuesday evening that after “an extensive review of this tragic event, conducted by career prosecutors and investigators,” officials concluded that “the evidence is insufficient to prove beyond a reasonable doubt” that the officers involved in Gray’s arrest “willfully violated” his civil rights.
“Accordingly, the investigation into this incident has been closed without prosecution,” the agency said.
The decision means no officers will be held criminally responsible for Gray’s death. The state previously filed local criminal charges against six officers in the case, but failed to secure a single conviction.
Former U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced that the Justice Department was conducting a criminal civil rights investigation into Gray’s death on April 27, 2015, the same day as Gray’s funeral and the eruption of rioting, looting and arson in Baltimore.
Lynch, who served under President Barack Obama, said at the time that the department would “continue our careful and deliberate examination of the facts in the coming days and weeks” to determine whether any officers should be charged with violating Gray’s civil rights.
Now, nearly two and a half years later and under the Trump administration, Justice Department investigators have concluded that no charges are warranted.
The agency said the evidence did not show Gray was given a “rough ride” in the back of a police transport van — a theory of state prosecutors — and did not prove that officers were aware that their failure to secure Gray with a seat belt put him in danger. Evidence did not show that officers knew he was injured and needed immediate medical care, the DOJ statement said.
The agency announced its decision Tuesday evening, several hours after The Baltimore Sun reported the decision based on sources familiar with the investigation.
Officials at the FBI and the Maryland U.S. attorney’s office referred questions to the Justice Department.
William H. “Billy” Murphy, the Gray family’s attorney, declined to comment. Baltimore police spokesman T.J. Smith also declined to comment.
Five officers still face internal discipline hearings related to the case.
Michael Davey, an attorney for the local police union, said he had not received notice of an official decision from the Justice Department as of Tuesday afternoon, but “we’re obviously pleased” no charges will be filed.
“We only wish that the Baltimore City state’s attorney’s office would have done just as thorough an investigation before they brought their state charges,” Davey said. “If they would have done that, we believe they would have come to the same conclusion as the Department of Justice.”
According to prosecutors, Gray died after suffering a fatal spinal cord injury in the back of a Baltimore police transport van following his arrest on the morning of April 12, 2015.
Police accused Gray of running unprovoked in a high-crime area in West Baltimore and of being in possession of an illegal knife at the time of his arrest. He was handcuffed and shackled in the transport van, but not restrained by a seat belt.
Gray’s death a week later sparked widespread protests against police brutality in Baltimore. Clashes between police and civilians spiraled out of control on the day of his funeral, erupting into rioting that caused millions of dollars in damages. The city was put under a weeklong nightly curfew.
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Source: Baltimore Sun