Officer Edward Nero, center, one of six Baltimore city police officers charged in connection to the death of Freddie Gray, arrives at a courthouse to receive a verdict in his trial in Baltimore. CREDIT: AP PHOTO/PATRICK SEMANSKY
Edward Nero, the Baltimore officer who arrested Freddie Gray and put him in a police van without a seat belt, was found not guilty of second-degree assault, reckless endangerment, and misconduct in office by Judge Barry Williams on Monday morning.
Nero was one of three officers who apprehended Gray during a bike patrol in April 2015. The officers say they chased Gray down when he spotted them and started to run away. According to the police narrative, Gray was eventually caught and found with an illegal knife. Police said the arrest that followed was made “without force or incident.” But one witness said Gray’s body was folded like origami during the arrest, and videos show Nero and a second officer dragging Gray, who appeared unable to walk on his own, to a police van.
Neither officer put a seat belt on Gray, paving the way for him to be “thrown around the wagon like a pinball,” according to Deputy State’s Attorney Janice Bledsoe. During his rough ride, Gray suffered a high-energy injury to the neck and spine.
Prosecutors hinged their case on Nero’s fatal error. They also claimed that Gray’s arrest constituted assault, because it was made without probable cause — an argument that Williams scrutinized during closing arguments.
Defense attorneys said that Gray was resisting arrest, so securing him was “impossible.” They also claimed Nero was not trained to put seat belts on detainees. In reality, BPD policy requires officers to strap in detainees, but unofficial rough rides like the one that killed Gray are common in the city. Police regularly toss detainees into vehicles without strapping them in and then proceed to drive recklessly, leaving riders paralyzed.
Nero was the second officer to go to trial for Gray’s death. In December, William Porter’s trial ended with a hung jury.