United States: Charges against Freddie Gray's killers dropped; officer in Sandra Bland's case admits cover-up, threats

July 29, 2016

A mural for Freddie Gray in Baltimore.

Public figures and activists reacted with anger and disappointment at a Baltimore prosecutors' decision on July 27 to drop all charges against the three remaining police officers in Freddie Gray's homicide case, TeleSUR English said that day.

Many argued the ruling showed the very reason the Black Lives Matter movement exists and continues to gain support. Gray died from injuries sustained in police custody on April 12 last year. The medical examiner ruled his death a homocide, leading to six officers being charged.

“When a man's death is ruled a police homicide and nothing happens it's no wonder all faith has been lost in our justice system,” Jill Stein, the Green party's candidate for president, tweeted.

“Zero police officers were convicted of murder in 2015 while nearly ,000 civilians were killed by police. This is unacceptable.”

The decision of Attorney-General Marilyn Mosby to drop the charges did not come as a surprise to many. Her team had failed to secure any convictions against four other police officers.

“If 'law enforcement' isn't accountable for the easily verifiable homicide of #FreddieGray, then what's the point of 'law' or a constitution?” actor Jesse Williams, a star of ABC TV's Grey's Anatomywho has been active within the Black Lives Matter movement and racial issues in the US, questioned in a tweet.

“Law without enforcement is merely a suggestion. Suggestions do not fill cages with Black people for profit, 'law and order' does that. #FreddieGray.”

Following her decision, Mosby called for police reform, She said her team failed to secure convictions because of a lack of evidence delivered by police investigators who themselves were peers of the police officers involved in killing Gray.

“Unlike with other cases, where prosecutors work closely with the police to investigate what actually occurred, what we realised very early on in this case was that police investigating police, whether their friends or merely there colleagues, was problematic,” Mosby said.

“There was a reluctance and an obvious bias that was consistently exemplified, not by the entire Baltimore Police Department, but by individuals within the Baltimore Police Department at every stage of the investigation, which became blatantly apparent in the subsequent trials.”

Others recalled how the arrest of Gray, which led to his death, was itself unlawful. “To be honest, I'm beyond words with the #FreddieGray case right now,” Shaun King, New York Daily's journalist and Black Lives Matter activist, said on Twitter after the decision. “The ARREST of #FreddieGray itself was unlawful. He broke no laws. None. He was arrested for LOOKING at an officer a way he didn't like.”

Meanwhile, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump celebrated the police getting off the hook over killing Gray, while suggesting prosecutor Mosby should have been prosecuted. "It was disgraceful what she did and the way she did it," he told reporters in Florida, adding that she should “prosecute herself”.

Gray's case was one of the high-profile police killings that ignited the Black Lives Matter civil rights movement. Many legal experts have warned that police officers tend to get away with extrajudicial killings, especially when Black people are the victims, which to many proves that Black lives are less valued and justifies the existence of movements like Black Lives Matter.

In a separate case of the death of a Black person in police custody, Texas police officer Michael Kelley has revealed prosecutors working on the death of Sandra Bland omitted evidence that would challenge the narrative that she committed suicide, TeleSUR English said on July 29.

Kelley further added that he was told his job would be on the line if he kept divulging incriminating information about the case. On July 13 last year, Bland was found hanged in a Texas jail cell. the coroner ruled the death a suicide, but angry protests took place by those who accused the police of of a cover up.

The Prairie View officer, who appeared on the scene of Bland's arrest after she was stopped for not using her car blinkers, told the Huffington Post that Bland had a bruised forehead and that state trooper Brian Encinia, who arrested her, did not know what to charge her with.

“I don't know what I'm going to charge her with yet,” Encinia was captured to a supervisor on audio, according to the Associated Press. “I kind of lean toward assault versus resist because I mean, technically, she's under arrest when a traffic stop is initiated, as a lawful stop.”

Encinia was indicted for perjury for lying about the arrest. A jailer was also caught falsifying jail logs to show he had checked on Bland less than an hour after her death.

Neither of Kelley's testimonies, which he said he submitted to the prosecution, made it to the official report, although one of the special prosecutors on the case and the district attorney of Waller County said Kelley never approached them with the evidence.

Kelley has since been suspended from the department for tasing a Black city councillor, which he said was retaliatory. But District Attorney Elton Mathis has criticised Kelley for his comments. "I can only imagine this is an attempt to divert attention," said Mathis in a statement.

Despite other evidence of improper monitoring and screening of Bland, the grand jury has issued no further indictment. Bland was found dead in her jail cell three days after her arrest.

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