A lawyer for six Baltimore police officers says they “did nothing wrong”, after criminal charges were announced against them in the case of Freddie Gray who died in police custody.
Lawyer Michael Davey said the officers “at all times acted reasonably and in accordance with their training”.
State attorney for Baltimore Marilyn Mosby earlier said the death of the 25-year-old black man was a homicide and his arrest had been illegal.
Gray’s death sparked violent protests.
But after the charges were announced on Friday afternoon, celebrations broke out across Baltimore. Drivers honked their car horns as people took to the streets with fists raised in triumph.
“These charges are an important step in getting justice for Freddie,” said Gray’s stepfather Richard Shipley.
The spontaneous street celebrations turned into a small protest march in the evening, calling for an amnesty for those detained after Monday’s rioting.
Police said that 53 people were detained on Friday, some for breaking the 22:00 curfew which is still in force in the city.
Speaking to reporters, Mr Davey accused Ms Mosby of an “egregious rush to judgement”.
“As all of the facts surrounding this case come out in the appropriate form, the officers’ lack of wrongdoing will be made abundantly clear.”
At the scene: Tara McKelvey,
In Baltimore, change in the way racial issues are being handled is under way – at a lightning-quick pace.
For the first time since 1968, the year that Martin Luther King Jr was assassinated, National Guard troops were deployed. That was earlier this week.
On Friday, the city – or at least a section of the city, West North Avenue and Pennsylvania Avenue, an area that had been torched – was starting to heal.
The National Guard troops, the same men who were sent here to stop would-be rioters, played with children in front of a burned-out CVS.
Someone has drawn a peace sign in white and pink chalk on its brick wall. Plywood has been bolted over the smashed-up doors. A Harriet Tubman poster, commemorating a woman who once helped free slaves, is hung on the wood, fastened with gaffer tape.
Mr Davey insisted that Gray’s injuries “did not occur as a result of any action or inaction on the part of these officers.”
He also said that the defence team had “grave concerns about the fairness and integrity of the prosecution of our officers”.
All six officers have been suspended and were charged after they voluntarily presented themselves at the city jail. They have now been released from detention on bail.
Ms Mosby earlier rejected a police union request to step aside and appoint a special prosecutor to handle the case.
The prosecutor said the findings of an independent investigation, coupled with the medical examiner’s view that the death was a homicide, had “led us to believe that we have probable cause to file criminal charges”.
Ms Mosby said Gray died as a result of injuries suffered while he was shackled inside a Baltimore police van, but not restrained by a seat belt – as he was legally required to be.
She said the officers failed to provide medical aid to Gray after he repeatedly pleaded for help.
The driver of the van, Caesar Goodson, 45, faces the most serious charge, second-degree murder. Mr Goodson faces more than 30 years in prison if convicted.
The other officers face charges including involuntary manslaughter, assault and misconduct.
Ms Mosby said that Gray was not carrying an illegal switchblade as reported earlier by police, but a legal pocketknife.
After Gray’s funeral on Monday, riots broke out in sections of West Baltimore. About 200 people were arrested as more than 100 cars were set alight and 15 buildings destroyed.
Since then, the city and state officials deployed thousands of extra law enforcement officers and National Guard troops to keep the peace and enacted a citywide curfew.
Gray’s death is the latest in a string of high-profile cases where black men have died after contact with the police.
- Officer Caesar Goodson: 2nd-degree depraved heart murder, involuntary manslaughter, 2nd degree negligent assault, manslaughter by vehicle by means of gross negligence, manslaughter by vehicle by means of criminal negligence, misconduct in office for failure to secure prisoner and failure to render aid
- Officer William Porter: Involuntary manslaughter, assault in the 2nd degree, misconduct in office
- Lieutenant Brian Rice: Involuntary manslaughter, assault in the 2nd degree, assault in the 2nd degree [second of two similar charges], misconduct in office, false imprisonment
- Officer Edward Nero: Assault in the 2nd degree (intentional), assault in the 2nd degree (negligent), misconduct in office, false imprisonment
- Sergeant Alicia White: Involuntary manslaughter, 2nd degree assault, misconduct in office
- Officer Garrett Miller: Intentional Assault in the 2nd degree, assault in the 2nd degree, negligent misconduct in office, false imprisonment