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Baltimore Reacts To State Attorney's Announcement Of Charges

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

A Baltimore state's attorney - the Baltimore state's attorney announced, within the past hour, charges have been brought against all six officers involved in the arrest of Freddie Gray. Those charges range from assault to murder. He is the young black man who died of a spinal injury a week after being taken into police custody. His death has been at the center of national unrest over the past week. The state's attorney Marilyn Mosby called Gray's death a homicide this morning, and we go now to NPR's Jennifer Ludden live. She is in Baltimore. Good morning.

JENNIFER LUDDEN, BYLINE: Hi there.

MONTAGNE: Jennifer, break down for us what those charges are.

LUDDEN: There is a long list of them for all six of the officers involved. They range from, as you said, involuntary manslaughter, assault in the second degree, second-degree murder, misconduct in office, false arrest. They - Mosby said that in the end, there was actually no probable cause to arrest Freddie Gray, that he was not - he did not have a switchblade on him, as has been widely reported. It was a different kind of knife that is perfectly legal in the state of Maryland. And she also stressed the number of times that aid was not rendered even though he repeatedly asked for it.

MONTAGNE: It's also been a big question throughout these last days as to exactly how Freddie Gray died. There have been reports that the police stopped the van. You know, it seems, for the outsider, rather mysterious. And she cleared up some of those - some of that mystery by giving a lot of detail. Tell us about that.

LUDDEN: She cleared it up, not - we still don't know exactly how his - apparently his spinal cord was so severely - you know, nearly severed. But what she said it came down to is, he was in the back of the police van face down with his arms handcuffed behind him and his feet shackled and that in that process, he was roughed up somehow that he had sustained a severe injury. And she also noted that, you know, the medical examiner's report which she received today declared his death a homicide.

MONTAGNE: And so the idea is, it's possible to sustain a deadly injury simply by being in a police van bouncing around out of control.

LUDDEN: Yeah. We did not hear a lot of - you know, I'll have to go back and listen again to what she said, but I don't - I did not hear her talk about an injury at the time of arrest. She did say that, you know, the officers had him in a prone position, and he was asking for an inhaler, which they did not provide, you know, as they were arresting him on the street - some of that video that everyone has seen at this point that went viral. We did not hear about an injury at that point.

Really, it - apparently, it came down to riding unseat-belted in the back of the van. And she listed, like, five separate times when officers put him in and then stopped and checked on him and again did not seat-belt him - like, five different times in violation of department policy. And therefore, somehow, being unseat-belted but shackled in the van caused the injury.

MONTAGNE: Tell us about those six officers. For one thing, which of them have or has been named in the second-degree murder charge?

LUDDEN: Let's see. Let me check my notes. That would be the first one - Caesar.

MONTAGNE: Well, I don't - actually, Jennifer, it's fine. I don't need names, but where are the officers? You know, it's been reported that the officer who was driving was - has one of the harshest charges. But basically, where are they now?

LUDDEN: She said that there is a warrant out for their arrest. It was issued between 9:30 and 10 o'clock this morning. She could not say whether they were in custody. There is a warrant out for their arrest. And so we do not know.

MONTAGNE: And I gather that the Baltimore police officers union has asked the prosecutor - that's Marilyn Mosby - to appoint a special independent prosecutor. Why that?

LUDDEN: You know, interesting. She said that there's no accountability with a special prosecutor. And actually, a lot of people here have been asking for that. She said, look, I'm the one who's elected. I'm the one who has taken an oath to have a fair and equitable justice system. So she really kind of dismissed this idea of a special prosecutor.

MONTAGNE: And have the police or the unions reacted to this other than that?

LUDDEN: I have not heard reaction from them. I can tell you, just briefly, reaction on the street - there was cheers that went up when she - as people crowded around her press conference. I spoke to one person who said he feels better now that maybe there won't be a repeat of Monday night's violence, but he wished she'd sort of said earlier that she would bring charges if they were warranted. He thought maybe that could've avoided some of the riots we've seen this week.

MONTAGNE: NPR's Jennifer Ludden reporting from Baltimore on the charges being brought against the Baltimore police officers involved in the arrest of Freddie Gray. Thank you.

LUDDEN: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.