Baltimore Police officer Edward Nero was acquitted of all charges Monday for his involvement in the arrest and death of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black man who died while in custody last year.
Nero faced several misdemeanor charges of assault, reckless endangerment and two counts of misconduct in officer, but Baltimore Circuit Judge Barry Williams’s verdict found the 30-year-old officer not guilty of all charges. Nero had opted for a bench trial instead of a trial by jury.
During the five-day bench trial, prosecutors argued that Nero unlawfully detained Gray without probable cause and failed to buckle him into a seat belt while in the back of a police van. Maryland’s state attorney Marilyn Mosby said last year that the failure by the officers to secure Gray with a seat belt was part of the body of evidence that allowed the state to rule Gray’s death a homicide.
Weeks after Gray’s death on April 19, 2015, Mosby brought criminal charges against six Baltimore officers, including Nero.
Regarding Williams’s judgment, however, the Baltimore Sun’s Kevin Rector tweeted that Williams said the “state failed to prove Nero acted unreasonably.”
Judge Williams said state failed to prove Nero acted unreasonably. Stressed Miller testimony that he alone stopped and cuffed #FreddieGray
— Kevin Rector (@RectorSun) May 23, 2016
The Sun also reported that Williams on Thursday had “skeptically questioned prosecutors about their theory of assault, which legal experts said was unprecedented.”
Nero is the second of six officers indicted in Gray’s death to stand trial. Officer William Porter’s trial in December was declared a mistrial.
T.J. Smith, Baltimore Police Department spokesman, said in a statement that while “the criminal case against Officer Edward Nero has come to a close, the internal investigation has not,” adding that Nero will remain in an “administrative capacity” while an internal investigation continues.
“The internal investigation is being handled by other police departments,” the statement read. “The internal investigation will not be completed until all of the criminal cases against the other five officers are completed because they will likely be witnesses in each case.”
Video by Associated Press
Gray died a week after sustaining a fatal spinal injury in the back of a police van, where he was handcuffed, shackled and left unrestrained by a seat belt. Gray’s death sparked a series of citywide protests, including at his funeral, where demonstrators clashed with police.
Officer Caesar Goodson Jr. is the next officer to stand trial on June 6. Goodson was the driver of the van that held Gray and was the only officer to face a “depraved-heart” murder charge, which has a maximum prison sentence of 30 years.