(AA) — Six police officers were charged Friday in the death of an unarmed black man in Baltimore who suffered injuries while in police custody, the city’s top prosecutor said.
Baltimore State Attorney Marilyn Mosby said in a press conference that her office’s investigation into the death of Freddie Gray determined that there is probable cause to file criminal charges against the six officers involved in the 25-year-old’s arrest and subsequent transport.
She said Gray’s death was a “homicide” and his arrest for allegedly having a banned switchblade was “illegal.”
Gray suffered severe spinal injuries at some point after he ran from police and was apprehended April 12. He later died at a hospital.
Videos of his arrest recorded by bystanders and posted on the Internet show him being carried by officers into a police van in pain and apparently with limited use of his legs.
The officers are charged with several counts, including second-degree murder, involuntary manslaughter and assault.
“I heard your call for ‘No justice, no peace,'” Mosby said in a nod to protesters in the city and around the country. Protesters present at the outdoor press conference cheered loudly after the charges were announced, briefly interrupting the attorney’s remarks.
The slogan has become a rallying cry for protesters who seek justice for the victims of a series of recent high-profile police-involved killings in Missouri, New York and Ohio.
The state’s investigation was coupled with the chief medical examiner’s autopsy report, Mosby said.
Gray’s stepfather Richard Shipley said that the family was “satisfied” by the charges during a Friday evening press conference, but cautioned “these charges are an important step in getting justice for Freddie.”
Family attorney William Murphy added that he has “the utmost confidence” that justice is achievable in the case.
President Barack Obama said it is “absolutely vital” that the truth of the case be discovered.
“Justice needs to be served,” he said. “ What I think the people of Baltimore want more than anything else is the truth. That’s what people around the country expect, and to the extent that it’s appropriate this administration will help local officials get to the bottom of exactly what happened.”
Gray’s death has sparked mass demonstrations in Maryland’s largest city against police brutality that have devolved into lawless melees on two separate nights, forcing the mayor to enact a week-long curfew from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m.
Euphoria filled Baltimore’s streets following news of the charges, as approximately 100 protesters congregated at a drug store that has been a focal point of demonstrations.
“I feel like we have a victory today,” said Fredrick John, a 26-year-old Baltimore resident, as convoys of cars blared their horns at a nearby intersection. “The next step is trying to get these officers, these criminals convicted.”
Ellie Richardson, 19, said demonstrators would not stop coming out to Maryland’s largest city “until we see that the charges are followed through.”
“We’re out here today partly celebrating that this case has actually gone this far at all because we know how the cases usually go – officers never get indicted, they never get charged, but they see how serious Baltimore is about its people,” she added.
Demonstrations in the wake of Gray’s death have spread to other cities including New York, Chicago, Seattle, San Francisco and Oakland, California.
Local media reported Thursday that an internal police investigation yielded no evidence that Gray was fatally injured during his arrest or interactions with police officers.
ABC network’s Washington affiliate WJLA cited unnamed multiple police sources who said that the medical examiner concluded that the fatal injury was sustained when Gray slammed into the back of the van that he was being carried in, fatally breaking his neck.