Officer Edward Nero’s fate has been decided. Did officials make the right decision? Read on and give us your opinion below.
A judge on Monday acquitted Baltimore Police Officer Edward Nero of all charges in connection with the April 2015 arrest of Freddie Gray, whose death from a broken neck sustained while in police custody sparked large protests and widespread rioting in the city.
Prosecutors charged Officer Edward Nero and five of his fellow officers with crimes after Mr. Gray died of a spinal cord injury sustained in police custody. Prosecutors charged Mr. Nero with second-degree assault for touching Mr. Gray during what they alleged was an illegal arrest, and with reckless endangerment for failing to seat-belt him in a police van. He was also charged with two counts of misconduct in office.
If convicted, Mr. Nero, 30 years old, would have faced a maximum prison sentence for second-degree assault of 10 years; and up to five years for reckless endangerment. But Circuit Judge Barry Williams found him not guilty of all charges, including of misconduct. All of the charges Mr. Nero faced are misdemeanors.
Mr. Nero opted for a bench trial rather a trial before a jury that would decide the case. Mr. Nero pleaded not guilty, as did the five other officers.
Testimony during Mr. Nero’s week long trial centered on events prior to Mr. Gray’s van ride. Prosecutors and Mr. Nero’s lawyers jousted over whether Mr. Nero acted as a reasonable officer would during the officers’ chase and arrest of Mr. Gray, who was 25. Prosecutors said Mr. Nero then endangered Mr. Gray by failing to seat-belt him in a police van, despite the issuance days earlier of a new police department policy mandating seat-belting.
Mr. Nero’s lawyers countered that another officer, Garrett Miller, handcuffed Mr. Gray and that Mr. Nero touched him only to help him sit up and look for an asthma inhaler. Still, defense lawyers said police had a right to cuff Mr. Gray after he ran from officers in a West Baltimore area known for drug dealing. Police charged him with illegally possessing a knife found inside his pants.
Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake urged calm and alluded to the forthcoming trials for the five other officers. Two officer trials are planned to start in July, one in September and one in October.
“This is our American system of justice and police officers must be afforded the same justice system as every other citizen in this city, state, and country,” she said in a statement.
“In the case of any disturbance in the city, we are prepared to respond. We will protect our neighborhoods, our businesses and the people of our city.”
Although Mr. Nero’s criminal trial is over, a police department internal investigation is ongoing, a Baltimore police spokesman said. Mr. Nero will remain “in an administrative capacity while this investigation continues,” the spokesman said.