The police van driver once accused in court of giving Freddie Gray a “rough ride” won’t face any punishment from the Baltimore Police Department.
In a verdict delivered for Officer Caesar Goodson today, a police trial board cleared him of 22 administrative charges in the death of Gray, 25, in April 2015, according to WBAL-TV. Had Goodson been found guilty of any single charge, he would have been subject to termination.
Goodson reportedly smiled and hugged his lawyers upon learning his fate. The trial board took place at the University of Baltimore School of Law.
Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin Davis said in a statement, “I remain committed to the process as established by the Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights (LEOBR). Two administrative hearing boards remain” – those of Lt. Brian Rice and Sgt. Alicia White – “and we will stay the course for the remainder of this process.”
“Freddie Gray died in police custody,” Davis acknowledged. “My thoughts and prayers remain with the Gray family. We will continue to make improvements within our organization to meet the expectations of constitutional policing demanded by our community.”
Gray’s death in police custody in April two years ago set off a historic uprising in Baltimore that saw violent protests and brought federal scrutiny to the Baltimore Police Department’s practices and internal culture. The result was a merciless 163-page report from Department of Justice investigators that found, among other issues, entrenched problems with unconstitutional stops and seizures, discriminatory policing targeting black residents, use of excessive force and retaliatory behavior toward protesters.
The investigation prompted a consent decree that, under federal court order, requires the department to reform its practices.
While all six involved officers were acquitted or had their charges dropped in Gray’s death last summer, five of them – excluding Officer William Porter – faced internal disciplinary charges, decided by a trial board made up of police officers from outside the city. Officers Garrett Miller and Edward Nero accepted “minor disciplinary action” rather than opting to face trial; both are reportedly still employed full-time with the department.
Gene Ryan, president of FOP Lodge 3, the city’s police union, celebrated Goodson’s internal acquittal today, saying in a statement, “Officer Goodson can now turn the page on from this chapter in his life and continue his career with the Baltimore Police Department.”
“What happened to Freddie Gray on April 12, 2015, was an extremely unfortunate incident,” Ryan said. “No member of the Baltimore Police Department intentionally injured or caused Freddie Gray’s death. It was an unfortunate accident.”
Rice is next in line for a trial board. His public hearing is scheduled for Nov. 13-17.