A Baltimore police officer has been found not guilty of nearly two dozen administrative charges related to the 2015 death of Freddie Gray, local media reported, in a case that set off large-scale protests across the city.
The officer, Caesar Goodson Jr, was acquitted of 21 administrative charges on Tuesday by a trial board composed entirely of law enforcement officials, according to the Baltimore Sun.
The charges included neglecting his duty and making false statements to investigators, the newspaper reported.
Goodson will be allowed to remain on the police force, according to the Sun.
“This is a vindication of this officer,” Sean Malone, one of Goodson’s attorneys, said after the verdict was read.
“This is a tragic accident that happened, and we’re sorry for the loss of Mr. Gray, but we’re glad that our client is not going to be the face of this incident.”
Gray, 25, suffered severe injuries to his spinal cord after he was arrested and placed into the back of a police van in Baltimore in April 2015. He was not placed in a seat belt.
Gray had reportedly complained about breathing difficulties and then fell into a coma. He died a week later.
According to an autopsy, Gray suffered a “high-energy injury” that was most likely caused when the police van suddenly slowed down.
He had been taken into custody for carrying an illegal switchblade.
No officer has been convicted in the death of Freddie Gray. Look back at the brutal arrest that led to his death: https://t.co/Td05TnKA0d
— AJ+ (@ajplus) November 7, 2017
‘Appalling yet predictable’ decision
Monique Dixon, deputy director of policy at the Thurgood Marshall Institute in New York, said the decision to acquit Goodson was “appalling yet predictable given the composition of the trial board”.
“As long as the city lets law enforcement police themselves in lieu of meaningful civilian oversight, these proceedings will not result in accountability and will fail to strengthen community trust,” Dixon wrote in a statement on Twitter.
She said the organisation’s thoughts and prayers were with Gray’s family and friends “as they are forced to continually relive the trauma of his death”.
Goodson had been found not guilty of all charges at a criminal trial last year, including second-degree depraved-heart murder, the Baltimore Sun reported.
Two Baltimore police officers were also acquitted alongside Goodson, while three others had the criminal charges against them dropped, according to the Associated Press.
Two of the officers still face administrative charges, the Sun reported.
Black Lives Matter
Gray’s death was one of several police killings of African Americans, which have set off widespread protests across the United States under the banner, Black Lives Matter.
Most recently, anti-police brutality protests have taken place in St Louis, Missouri after a white police officer was acquitted in the fatal shooting of Anthony Lamar Smith, a 24-year-old black man.
Several demonstrations have held in the wake of the not guilty verdict in mid-September, with police being accused of attacking and indiscriminately arresting protesters.
Many highlight the disproportionate number of black Americans killed by police as part of a broader trend of racial discrimination in the country’s justice system.
According to The Guardian newspaper’s The Counted database, at least 1,093 people were killed by police in the United States in 2016.
Nearly a quarter of those killed were African Americans although the group accounts for roughly 12 percent of the total US population.
Watchdog group The Sentencing Project, said African American men are six times more likely to be jailed than white men.
Mapping Police Violence, another watchdog group, says that 99 percent of police officers who used deadly force in 2015 were not convicted of a crime.