Baltimore city chief prosecutor filed criminal charges against six police officers who were involved in Freddy Gray case, who died after suffering spinal injuries in police custody, as Maryland state medical examiner on Friday ruled the 25-year-old black man’s death a homicide.
“The findings of our comprehensive, thorough, and independent investigation coupled with the medical examiner's determination was a homicide... has led us to believe that we have probable cause to file criminal charges,” prosecutor Marilyn Mosby said in a statement.
Driver of the van that carried Gray after his arrest, Officer Caesar R. Goodson Jr, received the most serious of charges, second degree murder, while three other officers were charged with manslaughter and all were charged with assault and misconduct.
Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings Blake later said five of the six officers were in custody.
US President Barack Obama also commented on the case following prosecutor Mosby’s announcement.
"It is absolutely vital that the truth comes out in what happened to Freddie Gray," Obama said. "I think what the people in Baltimore want more than anything else is the truth. That’s what people in our country expect."
People of Baltimore celebrated the announcement on the streets cheering and honking their car horns.
The city was rattled with protests since the funeral of Gray on Monday as the demonstrations turned violent in the first day, prompting a curfew in the nights since then.
“Mr Gray suffered a severe and critical neck injury as a result of being handcuffed, shackled by his feet and unrestrained,” while being transported with the police van Mosby said, explaining the cause of death according to her investigation.
The prosecutor said the officers did not help Gray despite his calls for medical attention and signs that he was not well, describing officers behaviour as “grossly negligent.”
Mosby also said Gray’s arrest was “illegal” in the first place as there was “no probable cause” for it.
"To the people of Baltimore and the demonstrators across America, I heard your call for 'no justice, no peace.' Your peace is sincerely needed as I work to deliver justice on behalf of this young man," Mosby said calling on people who took it to the streets in cities across the US to protest police brutality seeking answers for Gray’s death.
Baltimore protests spread to other major cities such as New York, Boston, Houston, Washington DC, and Seattle on Wednesday in the last wave of demonstrations against killing of black men in the hands of police.
Last year, protests were held across the US after the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Eric Garner in New York City.
In both cases, grand juries decided not to charge police officers involved in the deaths of unarmed black men in Ferguson and New York last year, causing further frustration and protest.
Driver officer Goodson, who is charged with second degree murder in Gray’s case, can receive a prison sentence up to 30 years if convicted of murder.
Goodson and three other officers, Sergeant Alicia D. White, Officer William G. Porter and Lieutenant Brian Rice, face charge of involuntary manslaughter. All six officers face lesser charges such as assault and misconduct, including Officer Edward M. Nero and Officer Garrett E. Miller.