Baltimore Police Officer Edward Nero was found not guilty on Monday for his alleged role in the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray a year ago.
Nero, 30, was facing misdemeanor charges of second-degree assault and two counts of misconduct in office for his part in Gray’s arrest. He was also charged with reckless endangerment for shackling Gray and placing him in a police van without buckling his seatbelt. He pleaded not guilty to all charges.
Nero is the second of six officers to stand trial in connection to the death of Gray, a black man who sustained a fatal spinal cord injury in police custody on April 12, 2015. Gray died from his injuries a week later, on April 19, sparking citywide protests against police brutality. After his funeral on April 27, the unrest intensified — residents looted stores and set fires, and protesters threw rocks and other items at police lines.
Baltimore Police Officer William Porter was the first to stand trial, in December, but the jury could not reach a verdict. Unlike Porter, Nero opted for a bench trial.
The verdict in Nero’s case could trickle down to the remaining trials, according to Barry Slotnick, a criminal defense attorney.
“The judge who tried the case obviously went along with the idea that a defendant is presumed to be innocent unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt,” he told The Huffington Post. “What we have here is clearly a case in which there was a conclusion that the judge drew with regards to the intentions of Officer Nero and as a result the verdict came in as not guilty. I think that the present verdict will affect the remaining trials in that the other defendants will be acquitted, as well, in deference to the judge’s decision.”
Some residents, according to a local Fox affiliate, wondered if the reaction to Nero’s verdict would be as intense as that to Gray’s funeral.
“It just comes down to, you don’t want another outbreak of people looting and whatnot,” Andrew Murphy, a Baltimore resident, told Fox 5 DC. “Hopefully it comes to a peaceful resolve.”
Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) asked residents on Friday to put aside their personal feelings and honor the verdict.
“The future of our community will not be defined at the moment of the verdict, but in the days and years that will follow,” Cummings said during a press conference.
Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake also released a statement asking residents to keep the peace.
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