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State's Attorney: Freddie Gray's Death Was A Homicide

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Baltimore's state's attorney - the Baltimore state's attorney just minutes ago announced charges against the six officers in the death of Freddie Gray. That is of course the young black man at the center of national unrest over the past week. State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby called Gray's death a homicide. And we go now to NPR's Jennifer Ludden live. She is in Baltimore. She was at that press conference that, as I said, just finished moments ago. And, Jennifer, this is very serious. What are the charges?

JENNIFER LUDDEN, BYLINE: Oh, Renee, there were so many I could not write them down fast enough. First of all, can I just say what a shocker it is that we actually have charges today? I mean, there certainly had been this sense building that people were expecting, you know, charges already. And people at - the city officials have been tamping down expectations, saying it's a long process. And here we have them. Some of them - first of all, all six officers have charges. They include involuntary manslaughter, assault in the second degree, misconduct in office - several charges for all six of the officers. And the State's Attorney Mosby went through quite a detailed description of what happened and how they failed to provide help to Freddie Gray.

MONTAGNE: Well, describe what you can. If it was in great detail - obviously you can't get everything in, but what are the main - what did you mainly get? What kind of picture did you get from what she said?

LUDDEN: First of all, she made a point of saying that this is based on both the police investigation, her own independent investigation and the medical examiner's report. She says she got it today, and it says Freddie Gray died from homicide. Then she said how repeatedly the officers ignored Freddie Gray's pleas for help. They repeatedly put him into the police wagon facedown, handcuffed, and that somehow he was severely injured in the van - facedown, handcuffed and his legs shackled. She repeatedly said that he was unseatbelted against policy. And she detailed a number of times when he would ask for help and several officers failed to render aid. In fact she said they went and made a second arrest along the way to the Western District Police Station, then unloaded that person who was in custody first before finally getting back to Freddie Gray, at which point he was not breathing.

MONTAGNE: Now, there's been so much speculation about what really happened and how could he have died, and a lot of mystery surrounding this. But it does come down, as you've described it, to Freddie Gray died in that police van - more or less bouncing around in a very dangerous way.

LUDDEN: That is what we're left to do. She did not specifically say what severed his spinal cord or nearly severed it. There is still some question there, but she said that it happened in the van. Again, he was thrown, legs shackled, hands handcuffed behind him.

MONTAGNE: And there's also something I gather in there about the fact that the arrest itself was illegal.

LUDDEN: Yes, no probable cause. She said it was not a switch - she went again through some of the details we already know. The officers made eye contact. They chased him. She said he did not have a switchblade, which was repeatedly reported, that it was a different kind of knife that is legal under Maryland law, and therefore no basis for the arrest.

MONTAGNE: Well, what I saw of this press conference myself, I saw a great - not a cheer quite, but the crowd around State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby...

LUDDEN: Yes, yes, the crowd got bigger as she talked. There was some people who were just wandering by, and a cheer went up. Of course we spoke to one person quickly who said, well, but let's see if they're going to be convicted, you know, so a bit of skepticism still. But she said, look - she repeatedly called for peaceful protests.

MONTAGNE: Right.

LUDDEN: She thanked the energy of the protesters who are - have not been violent. And she said, the youth, this is your time. I need your peaceful energy to help, that we can have systemic change so things like this don't happen again.

MONTAGNE: That's NPR's Jennifer Ludden speaking to us from Baltimore on the news that the state will be charging the six officers in the death of Freddie Gray with various charges. Thank you very much.

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