UPDATE, 9 p.m. EST: Demonstrations were held in Baltimore on Wednesday evening following the announcement of a mistrial in the trial of William G. Porter, one of the Baltimore police officers charged in connection with the April police-custody death of Freddie Gray. Gray’s death sparked riots that month throughout the city.
At least two protesters were arrested, but the demonstrations remain largely peaceful, the Baltimore Sun reported. It was also reported that Baltimore police shot a male suspect Wednesday evening, although it was unclear if the shooting was related to the demonstrations.
Earlier Wednesday, U.S. Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, D-Md., called for Baltimore residents to keep any protests peaceful.
“I know that many of my neighbors have been following this trial closely, and many may be disappointed by today’s outcome. Each of us will continue to struggle with the very raw, very real emotions the death of Mr. Freddie Gray invokes,” Cummings said in a statement. “With the eyes of the world on Baltimore City, we must ensure that any protests that take place are peaceful, and we must ensure that the process of healing our community continues. We must continue to channel our emotions into strong, positive change, so that, as a city, we truly see our young men of color before it is too late."
Fraternal Order of Police President Gene Ryan also released a statement in response to the mistrial announcement, asking residents to respect the legal process.
“When Officer Porter began this journey through the judicial process, we asked that everyone allow him his day in court as is promised to all citizens,” Ryan said. “Today, seven months later, Officer Porter is no closer to a resolution than he was at that time. Our legal system, however, allows for outcomes of this nature, and we must respect the decision of the jury, despite the fact that it is obviously frustration to everyone involved. Officer Porter and his attorneys will continue, with the full support of the Fraternal Order of Police, to press for his acquittal. While certainly nothing will return Freddie Gray to his family, we ask that the public continue to allow the judicial process to find its way to a final resolution.
The trial of William G. Porter, the first of several Baltimore police officers charged in connection with the April police-custody death of Freddie Gray, was declared a mistrial Wednesday after a jury could not reach a decision on whether he was guilty of manslaughter, second-degree assault, official misconduct and reckless endangerment charges. After five days of proceedings, a 12-member jury at Baltimore City Circuit Court deliberated for three days but was unable to reach a verdict.
The result came after several months of debate between city officials and police union leaders over how much responsibility the six Baltimore police officers should assume in the arrest and eventual death of Gray. Porter’s trial was watched closely, as legal experts believed it would have significant implications for the other five officers charged in the case.
The city was also prepared for new protests following the announcement. Police officials last week canceled all scheduled leave for officers, in the event that the verdict would spark civil unrest and rioting similar to those seen in late April, after Gray’s funeral.
Out of an abundance of caution, I activated Baltimore City’s Emergency Operations Center at 10:00 a.m.
— Mayor Rawlings-Blake (@MayorSRB) December 14, 2015
Gray, a 25-year-old African-American resident, was pursued April 11 by officers in the blighted Sandtown-Winchester neighborhood on the west side of Baltimore. Sometime after his arrest and during his ride to a police station, Gray suffered a severe spinal injury. He died from his injuries April 19.
In May, Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby charged six officers – Porter, Caesar R. Goodson, Lt. Brian W. Rice, Sgt. Alicia D. White, Edward M. Nero and Garrett E. Mille – with offenses that ranged from depraved-heart murder to official misconduct. All six pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Prosecutors used 16 witnesses to show that Porter, a 26-year-old city native who joined the Baltimore Police Department in 2012 and made annual salary of $44,104, had been criminally negligent by failing to secure Gray in the back of a police transport van, according to the Baltimore Sun. Prosecutors also argued that Porter broke police regulations when he failed to call for a medic when Gray asked for one.
Attorneys for Porter called 12 witnesses, including his aunt and Porter himself, to argue that Porter was of good character and did not believe Gray was severely injured. Capt. Justin Reynolds, a Baltimore police commander called for the defense, said Porter acted reasonably and went "beyond what many other officers would have done" to help Gray off the floor of the van at one of several stops and ask if he needed to go to the hospital, according to the Sun.