Accused of administering a “rough ride” responsible for killing Freddie Gray, the driver of the police transport van was acquitted of all charges on Thursday, including second-degree depraved heart murder and manslaughter. Although Officer Caesar Goodson Jr. failed to put a seatbelt on Gray and ignored multiple requests for medical attention, he has become the second Baltimore police officer acquitted of all criminal charges against him.
At 8:39 a.m. on April 12, 2015, a Baltimore police officer made eye contact with two individuals standing at a street corner who immediately fled. Officers pursued the individuals and apprehended one of them. According to the police, 25-year-old Freddie Gray surrendered without requiring the use of force as another officer aimed a Taser at Gray but did not deploy it. After restraining him, Officer Garrett Miller allegedly found a switchblade inside Gray’s pants pocket.
Witnesses assert that the arresting officers used excessive force to arrest Gray and refused to give him medical treatment. After watching the officers sitting on Gray’s back while handcuffing him, a bystander named Kiona Mack took out her cellphone and recorded a video of officers dragging Gray into the back of a police van as he screamed in agony.
By 9:24 a.m., Gray was no longer responsive and had difficulty breathing. Police called for an ambulance to transport Gray to the University of Maryland Medical Center’s Shock Trauma Center. Suffering from damage to his spinal cord including three cracked vertebrae, Gray slipped into a coma. The next day, Gray underwent surgery to repair his spine, which had reportedly been 80 percent severed. He survived for seven days before passing away on the morning of April 19, 2015.
Less than two weeks later, State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby declared Gray’s arrest had been illegal because officers lacked probable cause and had discovered a legal pocketknife in his possession, not a switchblade, as previously reported. Mosby also announced criminal charges against six of the officers involved in Gray’s arrest and subsequent death.
Charged with second-degree depraved heart murder for repeatedly ignoring Gray’s pleas for medical attention, Officer Goodson was also charged with second-degree assault, misconduct in office, involuntary manslaughter, manslaughter by vehicle (gross negligence), manslaughter by vehicle (criminal negligence), and reckless endangerment. After failing to put a seatbelt on Gray, Goodson was accused of running a STOP sign and veering into another lane of traffic due to his excessive speeding in an effort to give Gray a rough ride.
Due to the fact that the prosecution failed to prove Goodson drove recklessly, Circuit Judge Barry Williams rejected the rough ride allegations as “inflammatory.” Williams also noted that Goodson lacked the medical training to request an ambulance because Gray’s spinal injuries did not present any signs of bleeding, bruising, or other obvious signs of acute distress.
“The failure to seatbelt may have been a mistake or it may have been bad judgment, but without showing more than has been presented to the court concerning the failure to seatbelt and the surrounding circumstances, the state has failed to meet its burden to show that the actions of the defendant rose above mere civil negligence,” Williams stated.
Last month, Williams acquitted Officer Edward Nero of all charges against him involving Gray’s death in police custody. Williams is also expected to preside over the trials of Officers Garrett Miller and Lt. Brian Rice next month. Sgt. Alicia White and Officer William Porter have trials scheduled in the fall.