BALTIMORE (Reuters) - Lawyers for a Baltimore police officer charged in the April death of a black man renew their defense on Thursday after the officer testified that he was sorry about the man's death from a spinal injury suffered in custody.
Officer William Porter, 26, who faces manslaughter and other charges in the death of Freddie Gray, spent much of the first day of defense testimony on Wednesday on the stand.
He said in Baltimore City Circuit Court that he had become acquainted with Gray while patrolling his crime-ridden neighborhood.
Asked by defense lawyer Gary Proctor if he was sorry about Gray's death, Porter told a packed courtroom, "Absolutely. Sorry to see that, any loss of life."
Gray's death from the injury in the back of a police van triggered rioting and protests in Baltimore. It also fueled concern about U.S. police tactics, particularly the treatment of minorities.
Porter is the first of six officers, three of them black, to face trial. Charges against the other officers range from second-degree murder to misconduct.
Officers arrested Gray after a foot chase and finding a knife in his pocket. He was bundled into a transport van while in handcuffs and shackles and was not secured with a seat belt. Gray died a week later.
Porter, a black officer, was present at five of the six stops the van made, including one in which he lifted Gray onto the van's bench. Gray was not breathing at the last stop, a police station.
The defense has argued that Porter did not believe Gray was seriously injured until the final stop. His lawyers have suggested that other officers were responsible for seeking help.
Prosecutors contend that Porter ignored Gray's pleas for medical aid and his failure to secure him with a seat belt violated police policy.
Porter faces charges of involuntary manslaughter, second-degree assault, reckless endangerment and misconduct in office. He faces more than 25 years in prison if convicted on all counts.
(Reporting by Ian Simpson and Donna Owens; Editing by David Gregorio)