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Baltimore Police Officers Charged in Death of Black Man

The chief prosecutor in the eastern U.S. city of Baltimore, Maryland has announced charges against six police officers in the case of the death of a 25-year-old black man. Freddie Gray died in the hospital April 19th, a week after he was arrested.

On Friday, State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby said there is probable cause to bring criminal charges against the officers involved in the arrest. She said the state medical examiner’s office had ruled that Mr. Gray’s death was a homicide. Also on Friday, that office said it had sent its report on the examination of Mr. Gray’s body -- called an autopsy -- to the state’s attorney.

Ms. Mosby said Mr. Gray received a severe neck injury while being transported in a police vehicle after his arrest. She said he was not secured in the vehicle as he should have been. Earlier in the week, police admitted that Mr. Gray had not been secured in the van, an action that violates the department’s rules.

Ms. Mosby also said officers did not seek medical assistance although Mr. Gray said he needed it. And she said the knife found on Mr. Gray was legal for him to be carrying. The Baltimore Sun newspaper reports she told Mr. Gray’s family that “no one is above the law.” It also said Ms. Mosby believes Mr. Gray was “improperly arrested” because police had no legal reason to detain him.

Charges against the officers include involuntary manslaughter, assault, misconduct and false imprisonment. The driver of the police vehicle faces second-degree murder and five other charges.

Police gave their report on the case to the state’s attorney’s office on Thursday. That was one day earlier than the time limit police had set. The findings of the internal investigation have not been made public.

Officials, citizen groups and others continue to work to restore calm to the city. For now, people are not permitted to be outside from 10 o’clock at night to five o’clock in the morning. Officials say this curfew will likely last a few more days. The streets have been mostly empty during the curfew, and the city has been mostly calm since the riots on Monday.

Thousands of members of the Maryland National Guard, and police from Baltimore, the state of Maryland and other areas are patrolling the streets during the day and at night.

The case of Freddie Gray in Baltimore has influenced demonstrations in other parts of the country, including Boston, Cincinnati, New York, Washington and Philadelphia. Activists demonstrating in support of labor and immigrant rights on May 1 have added tensions with police to their message.

Calls for returning order to Baltimore

Many people have condemned the actions of those who rioted on Monday. But they say that in addition to returning order to the city, officials must deal with the reasons people are angry with police.

Gerald Miller lives in Baltimore.

“Baltimore will recover. I think we will recover. Sure, sure, but it’s gonna to take, you know, people getting involved, getting in the trenches not just in behind, you know a lectern, or when the camera’s on, or whatever, you gotta get down here in it with the people. This is where the people are. This is where they're hurtin’.”

Cynthia Green also lives in the city.

“My heart is heavy for the, the people of Baltimore, for this community, and all the other communities. And I’m sad for the young people that got up caught up in all of this.”

Stephanie Rawlings-Blake is the mayor of Baltimore. She spoke to residents on Tuesday, after the rioting.

“We saw people coming together to reclaim our city, to clean our city and to help heal our city. I think this can be our defining moment and not the darkest days that we saw yesterday.”

People had gathered peacefully for days demanding to know why Mr. Gray died. The violence began after the funeral for Mr. Gray on Monday. Police say members of criminal groups joined the protestors. They say they did not expect that would happen.

Officer Eric Kowalczyk is a spokesman for the Baltimore police. On Tuesday, he told reporters that police were expecting most of those who would gather after the funeral would be students.

“When we deployed our officers yesterday, we were deploying for a high school event. I don’t think that there is anyone in the country that would expect us to deploy automatic weapons and armored vehicles to an event with 13, 14- and 15-year-olds.”

After the violence on Monday, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan declared a state of emergency. He moved his office and his top aides to the city.

After the rioting, President Barack Obama said police cannot solve the problems in Baltimore by themselves.

“We can’t just leave it to the police. I think there are police departments that have to do some soul searching. I think there are some communities that have to do some soul searching. But I think we as a country have to do some soul searching.”

The president said rioting is not the same as protesting. And he said those who caused destruction must be punished.

Later the president said it is important that the truth comes out about what happened to Mr. Gray. He also noted that the individuals who are charged should receive fair treatment. Mr. Obama said the Justice Department and new U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch are communicating with Baltimore officials to offer help if needed.

Many of the protesters say they are angry about what they believe is continuing poor treatment of blacks by the police and what they say is the unwillingness of city officials to do anything about it. And they say there is little economic power in black neighborhoods. They say that has been a problem for many years.

I’m Christopher Jones-Cruise.

Zlatica Hoke, Ken Bredemeier, Alex Villareal and William Gallo reported this story for VOA. Additional information came from the Baltimore Sun and Wall Street Journal newspapers. Christopher Jones-Cruise adapted the story for Learning English. Mario Ritter was the editor.


Words In the News

curfew – n. an order or law that requires people to be indoors after a certain time at night

in the trenches – idiom a popular phrase that comes from trench warfare in World War I; it refers to being involved in the “real world,” as opposed to just thinking about, talking about or writing about taking action

lectern – n. a stand that holds a book or notes for someone who is reading, speaking or teaching

caught up in – idiom deeply involved with something; participating actively or closely in something

soul searching – idiom the activity of thinking seriously about your feelings and beliefs in order to make a decision or to understand the reasons for your own behavior

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