Judge hears about Gray's arrest in Nero's own words

AP News
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Posted: May 13, 2016 5:24 PM

BALTIMORE (AP) — A police officer standing trial in connection with the death of Freddie Gray described to investigators in a recorded statement played in court Friday a frantic and chaotic scene at the site of Gray's arrest.

Officer Edward Nero — one of six officers charged in the case — faces assault, misconduct in office and reckless endangerment charges. His trial opened Thursday.

Gray died April 19, 2015, a week after his neck was broken while he was handcuffed and shackled but not seat-belted into the back of a police van.

Prosecutors attest that Nero and two other officers arrested him illegally and without probable cause, and that they were negligent by failing to buckle him into a seat belt. Nero's attorney, Marc Zayon, said his client didn't arrest Gray, and that it was the wagon driver's responsibility to secure him.

But Nero's own recounting of the events of April 12 to investigators suggests that he played a role in Gray's detention.

Nero, Officer Garrett Miller and Lt. Brian Rice, all bike patrol officers, chased Gray to the Gilmor Homes, a housing complex in West Baltimore.

"Miller and I, we got him in custody," Nero told investigators, adding that Miller was the one who physically handcuffed Gray.

"We had the suspect in custody and he starts to flail around. We tried to restrain him and he started screaming."

Prosecutors on Friday played Nero's video statement to a pair of police investigators recorded just hours after Gray was arrested on April 12. This is the first time the officer's statements have been made public.

"Everything was happening so fast," he told investigators.

Nero said he used his medical training to check on Gray, who was complaining that he couldn't breathe. But Nero said Gray didn't display any signs of medical distress.

Nero told investigators that he and Miller then took Gray, who was refusing to cooperate or move —"He was just dead weight," he said — to the police transport van and lifted him onto the bench.

When investigators asked Nero if Gray was injured, he replied, "No, he just didn't want to move."

Nero told investigators that once inside the van Gray was "kicking, banging, banging with his head_I don't know what he was doing."

When the van stopped just two blocks away, Nero said he and Miller took Gray, who was still kicking and screaming, out of the wagon to secure him in leg irons. Afterward the officers put Gray back in the van, but this time instead of placing him on the bench they slid him into the compartment face-first.

The statement was played while Det. Michael Boyd, a member of the police department's force investigation team who interviewed Nero, was on the witness stand. He was the state's 10th witness in the case, and the second of the day.