Family weeps as video of Freddie Gray arrest is shown at officer's trial

Reuters News
|
Posted: Dec 03, 2015 6:13 AM

By Donna Owens

BALTIMORE (Reuters) - The family of a young black man who suffered a fatal spinal injury while handcuffed and shackled in a police van fled a courtroom in tears on Thursday after prosecutors showed a video of his arrest.

Baltimore police officer William Porter is being tried on charges of manslaughter, second-degree assault and misconduct in the April death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray.

Gray's mother and other relatives wept as the cellphone video, taken by bystander Kevin Moore, showed Gray screaming and people yelling at police. His family was escorted from the courtroom.

Gray died a week after being taken into custody for fleeing from an officer and possessing a knife.

Porter, 26, is one of three black officers charged in the case. He could be sentenced to more than 25 years in prison if convicted on all counts.

He is the first of six officers to go on trial in Baltimore City Circuit Court in connection with Gray's death, which triggered riots in the largely black city and intensified a U.S. debate on the use of excessive force by police.

Gray's friend Brandon Ross also shot a video of a second van stop in which Gray was placed in leg shackles. Ross broke down on the witness stand as he said officers grabbed Gray by the wrists and ankles and "threw him into the paddy wagon ... It was like they hog tied him."

He identified Porter as one of the officers at the scene.

Prosecutors contend that Porter ignored Gray's request for medical assistance and failed to secure him in the van.

Defense lawyers have argued that Porter had no responsibility to strap Gray in the van and that Gray had shown no signs of being ill or injured.

During the second day of testimony, the jury of eight women and four men also examined the police van in the courthouse garage.

The other five officers face charges ranging from misconduct to second-degree murder.

Charges brought in the Gray case mark a rare instance of the prosecution of police for misconduct. Legal experts have said the outcome could influence U.S. prosecutors in bringing similar charges in cases of alleged police brutality.

(Reporting by Ian Simpson and Donna Owens; Editing by Toni Reinhold)