The Latest: IT director says officer got seatbelt policy

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Posted: Jul 07, 2016 5:54 PM
The Latest: IT director says officer got seatbelt policy

BALTIMORE (AP) — The Latest on the trial of the highest-ranking officer charged in the death of an arrestee whose broken neck in police custody caused civil unrest in Baltimore (all times local):

5:45 p.m.

The Baltimore Police information technology director says Lt. Brian Rice was sent the department's policy requiring officers to secure arrestees with seatbelts in police transport vans.

But Andrew Jaffee testified that he can't confirm if Rice read it.

The 18-year-police veteran is being tried for manslaughter in the death of Freddie Gray, whose neck was broken after he was left unbelted with his hands and feet bound in the metal prisoner compartment.

Police Capt. Martin Bartness said earlier Thursday that as a commander, Rice was responsible for distributing the seatbelt policy, but he also testified that he has no proof Rice was aware of the rules himself.

The department recently rolled out a new online platform that ensures no officers can say they didn't read policies and procedures.

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1 p.m.

Medical Examiner Carol Allan testified that she determined Freddie Gray's death in police custody was a homicide in part because he lacked the "extreme force" required to snap his own neck.

As the first prosecution witness in the manslaughter trial of Police Lt. Brian Rice, Allan said that "if a seat belt had been used, then the type of injury Mr. Gray sustained would not have occurred."

She did clarify that her homicide determination "is a definition that has no standing, legally," and that it simply means "death at the hands of another."

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11 a.m.

A defense attorney says Baltimore Police Lt. Brian Rice acted as any reasonable officer would when he chose not to buckle a combative arrestee into a seat belt in the tight compartment of a police transport van.

Rice faces manslaughter and other charges in the death of that prisoner, Freddie Gray, whose neck was broken while he was handcuffed and shackled but unrestrained inside the compartment.

Attorney Chaz Ball said during opening arguments that the young black man was kicking and screaming during and after his arrest, and attracted a crowd, creating a dangerous environment for police.

Ball told Baltimore Circuit Judge Barry Williams Rice's "nine-second decision" not to put Gray into a seat belt "wasn't criminal negligence, it was 100 percent reasonable."

The lawyer also described Rice as an "18-year veteran, a husband, a father, (and) a Penn State grad."

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10:50 a.m.

Prosecutors said in opening statements that the highest-ranking officer charged in the death of a young black arrestee was criminally negligent when he failed to buckle him into a seat belt or direct other officers to ensure the man's safety.

Baltimore Police Lt. Brian Rice faces manslaughter, assault and other charges stemming from the death of Freddie Gray, whose broken neck in the back of the police van last year sparked riots and upheaval.

Prosecutors told Baltimore Circuit Judge Barry Williams that Rice "wasn't an inexperienced officer" and was well aware of his duty to belt Gray in to secure his safety.

Chief Deputy State's Attorney Michael Schatzow said, "he knew he was obligated to ensure the safety of Mr. Gray. He knew it, and he ignored it."

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10:15 a.m.

The prosecution has dropped one of the charges against a Baltimore police officer charged in the fatal injury of a young man in a detainee van.

Before their opening statement Thursday at the trial of Lt. Brian Rice, prosecutors told the judge they would not go forward on one of two charges of misconduct in office.

That leaves Rice facing four counts: manslaughter, second-degree assault, a different charge of misconduct in office and reckless endangerment.

Rice is one of six officers, three white and three black, charged in the arrest and death of Freddie Gray, a young black man who died last year. Two officers have been acquitted.

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3:30 a.m.

The trial of a Baltimore police officer who's facing criminal charges stemming from the arrest and death of a young black man whose neck was broken in the back of a transport wagon is slated to begin with opening statements.

Lt. Brian Rice is facing manslaughter, assault, reckless endangerment and misconduct in office charges stemming from the April 19, 2015, death of Freddie Gray.

Rice opted for a judge trial. He is the fourth of six officers — three white and three black — to stand trial. Last month two other officers were acquitted, and the proceedings for another officer ended in a mistrial in December.

Gray's death prompted protests and rioting across Baltimore and added fuel to the national Black Lives Matter movement.